Medicines to Prevent HIV – PEP and PrEP
PEP which is short for Post-Exposure Prophylaxis is a well studied method of preventing HIV infection after a person has been exposed to HIV.
This is based on the theory that if HIV replication can be inhibited as early as possible after the virus enters the body, it can prevent a permanent infection. This was first developed for health care workers such as doctors and nurses who would inadvertently poke themselves with an infected needle. It has since been expanded to treat people who got exposed to HIV in any other way; sexually, intravenous drug use etcClick here for PEP details including prices.
PrEP which is short for Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis is taking medicines to ‘vaccinate’ yourself against HIV.
Now, another method is fast catching the interest of scientists and doctors worldwide. This is known as PrEP which is short for Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis. As the name suggests, this involves a patient taking an anti-HIV medication everyday regardless of whether he or she has been exposed to HIV or not. This is so that if the HIV virus does enter the body, the virus will be immediately prevented from replicating and thus preventing the infection from becoming established and thereby incurable.
A Fact Sheet published by the US CDC in June this year detailed medical trials conducted in Thailand, Botswana and the United States which involved intravenous drug users, heterosexual men and women and MSM (men who have sex with men)1.Click here for detailed information on PrEP
A Press Release by NIH2 published on 23rd November 2010 stated that their study titled ‘Chemoprophylaxis for HIV Prevention in Men’ found that taking an anti-HIV drug everyday reduced the risk of HIV infection among MSM and bisexual men by 43.8%. This number was even higher at 72.8% if the patients followed their doctor’s instructions and took the drug at least 90% of the time.
Dr. Anthony S. Fauci M.D. who is the Director of NIAID pointed out that ‘No single HIV prevention strategy is going to be effective for everyone’. He went on to elaborate that more research has to be done for women and heterosexual men with regards to the effectiveness of PrEP.
The concept of PrEP might seem confusing to some of us who might wonder why some people would knowingly put themselves at risk of HIV and therefore see the need to take a preventive medicine everyday.
I like to compare this to a race car driver who straps himself into a virtually inescapable cockpit next to an engine exploding at 6000 times per second sitting next to a tank of highly combustible fuel. Then he wears a helmet and fire-retardant clothes.Early, Fast and Accurate Anonymous HIV test – Click Here
I feel its all about a lifestyle choice and the risk we are willing to take for that lifestyle. And of course, science has developed ways for us to manage this risk be it high-tech flame retardant clothes or anti-HIV medication.
1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – CDC Trials of Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis for HIV prevention
2. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases – Daily Dose of HIV Drug Reduces Risk of HIV Infection
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About Dr. Tan
Dr. Tan graduated from the National University of Singapore in 2001. His residency was in the two largest public hospitals in Singapore; Tan Tock Seng Hospital and Singapore General Hospital.