PrEP is a pill you can take to protect yourself from HIV. When used as directed, PrEP has been shown to be highly effective at reducing the risk of contracting HIV - up to 99% in some cases.
PrEP stands for Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis - meaning a treatment or action you take before risk of exposure (in this case to HIV) to prevent disease. It is different from PEP (Post-Exposure Prophylaxis).
PrEP is currently available in two forms - the branded drug Truvada, and unbranded generic forms. Two widely used versions of generic PrEP are Tenof-EM (from Hetero Drugs) and Tenvir-EM (from Cipla), both of which are approved by the US FDA.
Generics contain exactly the same active ingredients as Truvada (Tenofovir TDF and Emtricitabine FTC), and work in the same way - by stopping the virus from replicating in your body. They are manufactured by companies that do not own the original patent.
However, Truvada is significantly more expensive than generics, in some cases costing up to $1,800 a month. This is because pharmaceutical companies that invent original brand-name drugs need to recoup their costly investment in the development process, while generic manufacturers only need to demonstrate to regulators that their version is as good and effective as the original.
Tenof-EM is equivalent to Truvada and other generics including Ricovir-EM and Tenvir-EM.
For those at high risk of HIV, taking PrEP can significantly reduce the risk of infection if taken daily.
The use of PrEP is currently recommended in national guidelines in many countries including the United States, United Kingdom and Australia. The World Health Organization recommended in 2015 that “PrEP should be offered as an additional prevention choice for people at substantial risk of HIV infection as part of combination HIV prevention approaches”.
You should consider taking PrEP if you:
PrEP is not suitable if you:
PrEP should be taken as part of a comprehensive HIV / STI prevention plan. It is highly effective only if taken as prescribed above, and it is important to get tested regularly for HIV / STIs, monitor side-effects, and obtain new prescriptions (if necessary).
PrEP does not prevent other STIs, and it is highly encouraged that you maintain the use of condoms to the extent possible.
PrEP also does not prevent pregnancy, and contraception should be used to prevent pregnancy if needed.
PrEP only protects you against HIV but not other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) such as gonorrhoea, chlamydia, syphilis and hepatitis C.
In some cases, PrEP can cause minor side effects like nausea, vomiting, fatigue and dizziness, but these usually disappear over time. In very rare cases, PrEP can also affect kidney functions.
If you’re taking PrEP and experience any side effects that are severe or don’t go away, inform your healthcare professional.
It is essential that you undergo a few tests before or as you start PrEP.
Most importantly, PrEP can only be used if you are HIV negative. If you are already HIV positive and don’t realise it, you could develop resistance to drugs that you will need for treatment.
We highly encourage you to approach your healthcare provider for the following tests before purchasing and using PrEP:
4 weeks after starting on PrEP, the following check-in with your healthcare provider is recommended: