PrEP (Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis)
There is now good evidence that if you are HIV negative, taking medication in advance (prophylactically) may prevent you from acquiring HIV if you are exposed. This is known as PrEP.
Currently PrEP is recommended for men who have sex with men who are at substantial risk of HIV, any person at risk of HIV through injecting drug use, or any heterosexual person whose partner is known to have HIV. For men who have sex with men, substantial risk means anyone who has sex with an HIV positive partner, infrequent or no condom use, high number of sexual partners, other recent STI, and recent methamphetamine use.
At present, if high adherence is achieved taking PrEP, (ie. taking pills regularly, all of the time), studies have shown that it can be up to 92% effective, and possibly even higher. More studies are ongoing which may show even better results.
Talk to your Doctor about PrEP if you are considering taking it. Unfortunately, it is not currently available in Australia on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) and accessing it can be expensive. Up until recently, most people have had to access it cheaper via an online pharmacy. However, a new study looking at the effectiveness of PrEP started in Victoria on the 26th July 2016. This will provide those at risk with much cheaper access to PrEP. UNFORTUNATELY THIS STUDY IS NOW FULL AND HAS CLOSED.
Taking PrEP doesn’t mean that you can have unprotected sex without worry – other STIs apart from HIV can still be caught, and we cannot yet say that PrEP is 100% effective. Condoms are still recommended if you take PrEP. And there are also risks in taking PrEP outside the supervision of your Doctor.