WTF is PrEP?
Pre-exposure prophylaxis or PrEP is the use of an antiretroviral medication to prevent the acquisition of HIV infection by uninfected persons. While many strides have been made to eradicate HIV/AIDS and reduce its debilitating effects, HIV remains a public health threat globally. An estimated 1.5 million Kenyans are living with HIV, of whom 1,136,000 were on antiretroviral therapy by December 2017.
How PrEP works
PrEP interferes with the pathways that HIV uses to cause a permanent infection. For HIV to cause infection the virus must gain entry into the body, infect certain immune cells, make copies of itself (replicate) within these immune cells, then spread throughout the body.
When oral PrEP is taken consistently and correctly, antiretroviral drugs get into the bloodstream and genital and rectal tissues. The drugs work to help prevent HIV from replicating within the body’s immune cells, which helps to prevent a permanent infection.
The recommended ARV regimen for use as PrEP is: TDF (300 mg) + FTC ( 200 mg) once daily.
Who Should Take PrEP
A sexually active person who:
- has partner(s) known to be living with HIV, or
- engages in sexual activity within a high prevalence area or social network and one or more of the following:
- inconsistent or no condom use
- diagnosis of sexually transmitted infections
- exchange of sex for commodities (such as money, food, shelter, or drugs)
- use of illicit drugs or alcohol dependence
- partner(s) of unknown HIV status with any of the factors listed above
- People who have been raped or in abusive relationships.
Why PrEP is a life saviour
PrEP has many advantages including providing another method to help protect people who are unable to negotiate condom use with their partner(s), people in serodiscordant relationships (where one partner is HIV negative and the other is HIV positive), people who inject drugs but are not able to obtain new needles, or other people who do not use condoms or new needles consistently for whatever reason.
Where to get PrEP
One can get PrEP in all Public Health Facilities, selected Private facilities and FBO’s(Faith Based Organizations) at no charge. Health practitioners use a tool (A rapid Assessment Screening Tool) to determine who is viable for Prep medication.
PrEP is only offered after assessment to establish eligibility, readiness for effective use, required follow-up (including HIV testing every 3 months) and absence of contraindications to TDF and/or FTC.
Side effects of PrEP
Some of the possible side effects include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, headache and dizziness.PrEP may also cause small decreases in kidney, liver and bone health but in oral PrEP trials this did not lead to kidney or liver failure or bone fracture.
PrEP does not eliminate the risk of HIV infection and it does not prevent STIs or unintended pregnancies.477