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3/2/23 – Preventing HIV with PrEP

Hi, I’m Dr. Nilesh Kalyanaraman, the Health Officer for Anne Arundel County. Welcome to our Weekly Health Update. Today we’re going to talk about a powerful HIV prevention tool called PrEP.

What is PrEP?
PrEP stands for pre-exposure prophylaxis. The word “prophylaxis” means to prevent or control the spread of an infection or disease. PrEP for HIV is for people at high risk of getting HIV but who don’t have HIV. PrEP consists of a daily medication with the goal of preventing HIV from taking hold if you’re exposed to the virus. Exposure occurs through sex or sharing paraphernalia, such as needles used to inject drugs.

What are the other prevention methods?
Condoms are another important prevention method. People taking PrEP are encouraged to use condoms to protect them from sexually transmitted infections and to provide additional protection against HIV.

Who is PrEP for?
PrEP is for people who don’t have HIV, and are at higher risk for getting HIV. It’s for people who:

  • Have sex with many partners, especially if you don’t use condoms regularly
  • Exchange sex for money, food, shelter, or drugs
  • Have injected drugs or share needles
  • Have been diagnosed with a sexually transmitted infection in the past year
  • Have vaginal or anal sex without a condom
  • Have a sexual partner who has HIV or is at high risk for HIV.

How effective is PrEP?
When taken daily, PrEP reduces the risk of HIV infection from sex by about 99 percent. PrEP is less effective if it’s not taken consistently. One important note, PrEP doesn’t protect against any other forms of sexually transmitted infections.

Can I just take a pill when I know I’m going to have sex?
No. PrEP doesn’t work that way. It’s important to take a pill every day because it can take several days for your body to build up high enough medication levels to stop HIV from taking hold. Also, PrEP is not a “morning after” pill. If you know or suspect you’ve been exposed to someone with HIV, contact your healthcare provider.

If you want to find out if PrEP is right for you, call us at the Anne Arundel County Health Department at 410-222-7240.

Stay safe and be kind to yourself and others. We’ll see you next week.

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