Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP)
May 14, 2014
Pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP, is a way for people who do not have HIV but who are at substantial risk of getting it to prevent HIV infection by taking a pill every day. The pill (brand name Truvada) contains two medicines (tenofovir and emtricitabine) that are used in combination with other medicines to treat HIV. When someone is exposed to HIV through sex or injection drug use, these medicines can work to keep the virus from establishing a permanent infection.
When taken consistently, PrEP has been shown to reduce the risk of HIV infection in people who are at high risk by up to 92%. PrEP is much less effective if it is not taken consistently.
PrEP is a powerful HIV prevention tool and can be combined with condoms and other prevention methods to provide even greater protection than when used alone. But people who use PrEP must commit to taking the drug every day and seeing their health care provider for follow-up every 3 months.
Federal PrEP Guidelines
On May 14, 2014, the US Public Health Service released the first comprehensive clinical practice guidelines for PrEP. The guidelines were developed by a federal inter-agency working group led by CDC, and reflect input from providers, HIV patients, partners, and affected communities. The new guidelines
The new federal guidelines recommend that PrEP be considered for people who are HIV-negative and at substantial risk for HIV.
For sexual transmission, this includes anyone who is in an ongoing relationship with an HIV-positive partner. It also includes anyone who 1) is not in a mutually monogamous* relationship with a partner who recently tested HIV-negative, and 2) is a
For people who inject drugs, this includes those who have injected illicit drugs in the past 6 months and who have shared injection equipment or been in drug treatment for injection drug use in the past 6 months.
Health care providers should also discuss the use of PrEP with HIV discordant heterosexual couples (in which one partner is HIV-positive and the other HIV-negative) during conception and pregnancy as one of several options to protect the partner who is HIV-negative.
Patients on PrEP should return to their health care provider every 3 months for a repeat HIV test and other follow-up. At this time, the provider can write a prescription refill, offer counseling about medication adherence and risk reduction, test for STDs if necessary, and assess side effects.
PrEP is only for people who are at ongoing substantial risk of HIV infection. For people who need to prevent HIV after a single high-risk event of potential HIV exposure -- such as unprotected sex, needle-sharing injection drug use, or sexual assault -- there is another option called postexposure prophylaxis, or PEP. PEP must begin within 72 hours of exposure. See our PEP Q&A for more information.
PrEP Clinical Trials
The guidelines are based on strong evidence from clinical trials of PrEP use in high-risk populations. All participants in these trials received pills containing either PrEP or placebo (a pill without any medicine in it), along with intensive counseling on safe-sex behavior, regular testing for STDs, and a regular supply of condoms.
In all of these studies, HIV transmission risk was lowest for participants who took the pill consistently. Specifically:
None of the studies found any significant safety concerns with use of daily oral PrEP. Some trial participants reported side effects such as an upset stomach or loss of appetite but these were mild and usually resolved in the first month.
Clinical Practice Guidelines
Updated HHS "Guidance for Non-HIV-Specialized Providers Caring for HIV-Infected Residents Displaced From Disaster Areas" Now Available
This article was provided by U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Visit the CDC's website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.
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