... What is PrEP?
Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) is an HIV prevention strategy where HIV-negative individuals take anti-HIV medications before coming into contact with HIV to reduce their risk of becoming infected. The medications work to prevent HIV from establishing infection inside the body.
... Are you PrEP skeptical?
Maybe you’re not completely sold on this new HIV prevention strategy. You think it’s a hard pill to swallow and not all it’s cracked up to be. Here are the most common questions we’ve heard so far about PrEP:
Will PrEP give people the excuse to not use condoms? Are people who don’t use condoms irresponsible?
There are many methods besides condoms that people are using to reduce their HIV risk. Some people serosort by partnering with people who have the same HIV status, reduce the number of people they have sex with, use female condoms, have sex with HIV-positive partner(s) with undetectable viral load(s), and/or use PrEP. Some methods are more effective than others depending on multiple factors.
What’s important to note is that there are a variety of options for people to protect themselves from HIV infection—also known as the prevention tool kit. Employing any or all of these methods is helpful in reducing risk and is, in fact, a way of taking responsibility for your sexual health.
... What do I know about HIV?
What are HIV and AIDS?
HIV is a virus that attacks the immune system, which is our body’s natural defence against illness. The virus destroys a type of white blood cell in the immune system called a T-helper cell, and makes copies of itself inside these cells. T-helper cells are also referred to as CD4 cells.
As HIV destroys more CD4 cells and makes more copies of itself, it gradually breaks down a person’s immune system. This means someone living with HIV, who is not receiving treatment, will find it harder and harder to fight off infections and diseases.
If HIV is left untreated, it may take up to 10 or 15 years for the immune system to be so severely damaged it can no longer defend itself at all. However, the speed HIV progresses will vary depending on age, health and background.
Basic facts about HIV
- HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus.
- There is effective antiretroviral treatment available so people with HIV can live a normal, healthy life.
- The earlier HIV is diagnosed, the sooner treatment can start – leading to better long term health. So regular testing for HIV is important.
- HIV is found in semen, blood, vaginal and anal fluids, and breast milk.
- HIV cannot be transmitted through sweat, saliva or urine.
- Using male condoms or female condoms during sex is the best way to prevent HIV and other sexually transmitted infections.
- If you inject drugs, always use a clean needle and syringe, and never share equipment.
- If you are pregnant and living with HIV, the virus in your blood could pass into your baby’s body, or after giving birth through breastfeeding. Taking HIV treatment virtually eliminates this risk.
AIDS is not a virus but a set of symptoms (or syndrome) caused by the HIV virus. A person is said to have AIDS when their immune system is too weak to fight off infection, and they develop certain defining symptoms and illnesses. This is the last stage of HIV, when the infection is very advanced, and if left untreated will lead to death.
Basic facts about AIDS
- AIDS stands for acquired immune deficiency syndrome.
- AIDS is also referred to as advanced HIV infection or late-stage HIV.
- AIDS is a set of symptoms and illnesses that develop as a result of advanced HIV infection which has destroyed the immune system.
- Treatment for HIV means that more people are staying well, with fewer people developing AIDS.
Although there is currently no cure for HIV with the right treatment and support, people with HIV can live long and healthy lives. To do this, it is especially important to take treatment correctly and deal with any possible side-effects.
What you need to do ...
Be aware of HIV
There are many sources available on the Internet where you can better learn about HIV prevention, treatment and care.
Make a test
There are many branches in the country where you, or your partner, can make an HIV test for free. Be sure to do an HIV test!
Find a good specialist
The doctor can answer all your questions.
Consider prevention strategies
Consider one or more prevention strategies - including DCT (pre-exposure prophylaxis) or PrEP - that will allow you to have a long and healthy life, minimizing the spread of HIV and other STIs.
To be active
There are many organizations that you can find on the Internet, where you can learn more about HIV, including in the office of a friendly doctor.