Stigma-Free Health Care in New England

Understanding Oral PrEP

Oral PrEP

Understanding Oral PrEP

What is Oral PrEP?

Oral PrEP, or pre-exposure prophylaxis, is a medication regimen for people who do not have HIV but are at risk of contracting it. Taking Oral PrEP daily can significantly reduce the risk of HIV from sex or drug use.

How Does Oral PrEP Work?

The medication works by establishing a protective barrier in the body’s cells, effectively preventing HIV from establishing a permanent infection if exposure occurs. It’s essential to take it consistently for maximum protection.

The Benefits of Choosing Oral PrEP

Choosing Oral PrEP can offer peace of mind with a high effectiveness rate in preventing HIV when taken as prescribed. It’s a proactive measure for those aware of their high exposure risk.

Who Should Consider Oral PrEP?

It’s recommended for anyone at substantial risk for HIV, including people with an HIV-positive partner, those not consistently using condoms, and people who inject drugs.

Starting Oral PrEP: What to Expect

Starting PrEP involves consultations and regular health checks to ensure it’s safe and effective for you. Your healthcare provider will conduct HIV tests and other screenings.

Common Misconceptions About Oral PrEP

Many believe Oral PrEP is only for the sexually promiscuous or that it’s ineffective or costly. However, PrEP is a scientifically proven method of HIV prevention suitable for anyone at risk and can be obtained for little to no cost to the patient.

Eligibility and Assessment

Assessing Your Risk for HIV

Understanding your risk is the first step toward prevention. This includes evaluating your sexual practices, drug use history, and any exposure to HIV-infected individuals.

Necessary Health Screenings Before Starting

Before starting PrEP, a series of health screenings including tests for HIV, hepatitis, and kidney function are required to ensure the medication is safe for you to use.

Discussing Your Sexual Health with a Provider

Open communication with your healthcare provider about your sexual health and practices is crucial. This discussion will help tailor the PrEP regimen to your specific needs.

PrEP and Contraception: Things to Consider

PrEP does not prevent other STIs or pregnancy.  It’s important to integrate it with other preventative measures to prevent undesired outcomes and reduce the risk of additional STIs or pregnancy.

Eligibility Criteria for Oral PrEP

Eligibility for PrEP is generally determined by a risk assessment by your healthcare provider, considering factors like your sexual activity and overall health status.

Preparing for Your Consultation

To make the most of your consultation, prepare to discuss your health history, any drugs you’re currently taking, and be open about your lifestyle habits.

Starting Your Regimen

Choosing the Right Medication: Truvada vs. Descovy

Deciding between Truvada and Descovy, the two main types of Oral PrEP, depends on your overall health, kidney function, and what your healthcare provider recommends based on the latest research.

Initial Steps to Begin Oral PrEP

Once you choose a medication, the initial steps involve setting up a treatment plan, receiving your prescription, and learning the importance of adherence to daily dosing.

Monitoring Your Health While on PrEP

Regular follow-up visits are critical to monitor the effectiveness and any side effects of the medication. These include blood tests every 3 to 6 months to check for HIV status and kidney health.

Managing Side Effects

While side effects are generally mild and rare, they can include nausea, headache, and fatigue. Discussing these with your provider can help manage them effectively.

The Importance of Adherence to the Regimen

Consistent daily intake of PrEP is crucial for its effectiveness. Missing doses can significantly reduce its ability to prevent HIV infection. When taken daily, the medication can reduce the risk of contracting HIV from sexual exposure by 99% and can reduce the risk of contracting it from IV drug works (paraphernalia) by 74%. You can read more about this on the CDC website.

Support Systems and Resources

Leveraging support systems, whether online communities, healthcare providers, or local groups, can provide additional motivation and help manage the regimen.

Staying on Track with Oral PrEP

Regular Check-Ups and Tests

Staying committed to regular healthcare visits is key. These check-ups will ensure that PrEP is working effectively and safely, with routine HIV testing and kidney function assessments.

The Role of Healthcare Providers in Ongoing Care

Your healthcare provider is not just a prescriber but a partner in your health journey. They offer guidance, support adjustments to your regimen, and address any concerns that arise.

Adjusting Your PrEP Regimen Over Time

As your lifestyle or health changes, so might your need for PrEP. Discuss any significant life changes with your provider to see if adjustments to your regimen are needed.

Renewing Prescriptions: What You Need to Know

Keep track of your prescription renewals to avoid gaps in your regimen. Automatic refills and digital reminders can help maintain your supply without interruption.

Coping with Lifestyle Changes

Integrating PrEP into your daily routine may require some lifestyle adjustments. Support from friends, family, or support groups can be instrumental in this transition.

Community and Online Support for PrEP Users

Engaging with community resources and online forums can provide encouragement and advice, helping you navigate the challenges and successes of life on PrEP.

Beyond Prevention: Additional Health Considerations

Integrating PrEP into Your Overall Health Plan

Incorporating Oral PrEP into your broader health strategy is vital. It should complement other health measures you take, such as regular screenings for other conditions and maintaining a balanced diet.

Sexual Health Education and Protection

While Oral PrEP significantly reduces the risk of HIV, it does not protect against other STIs. Comprehensive sexual health education and consistent use of condoms are crucial for full protection.

Vaccinations and Other Preventative Measures

Stay up-to-date with vaccinations, including Hepatitis B and HPV vaccines, which can protect against conditions that are often more common in individuals at high risk for HIV.

Diet and Exercise While on PrEP

Maintaining a healthy diet and regular exercise routine can help mitigate some of the side effects of PrEP medications, such as nausea or fatigue, and promote overall well-being.

Planning for the Long Term with PrEP

Discuss with your healthcare provider about the duration of PrEP use and any potential long-term health considerations. Regular assessment of your continued need for PrEP is important as your circumstances change.

Why Choose Pathway To Better Health for Oral PrEP?

Choosing the right healthcare provider for Oral PrEP is crucial, and Pathway To Better Health stands out as your best option for several compelling reasons. First and foremost, our dedicated team, led by the experienced Jessica Wisocky, APRN, provides personalized, stigma-free care. We understand the nuances of HIV prevention and are committed to empowering our patients through education and support.

Our clinic offers both Truvada and Descovy, allowing us to tailor prevention strategies to individual needs. We prioritize accessibility, offering flexible appointment scheduling to ensure you can start and maintain your regimen with minimal hassle. Regular follow-ups and comprehensive support systems are part of our commitment to your health journey, ensuring you stay informed and comfortable with your treatment.

Moreover, our holistic approach extends beyond just medication. We provide a full spectrum of preventive care, including vaccinations and regular health screenings, to maintain your overall well-being. At Pathway To Better Health, you’re not just receiving a prescription; you’re gaining a partner in your health care.

Contact us today! Let us help you take this important step towards safeguarding your health with Oral PrEP.

FAQs About Oral PrEP

What is Oral PrEP?

Oral PrEP, or pre-exposure prophylaxis, is a medication taken daily to prevent HIV in people who are at high risk of exposure. It’s highly effective when taken consistently.

Who should consider using Oral PrEP?

Oral PrEP is recommended for anyone at substantial risk for HIV, such as individuals with an HIV-positive partner, people who inject drugs, or those who do not consistently use condoms during sex with partners of unknown HIV status.

How effective is Oral PrEP?

When taken daily, Oral PrEP reduces the risk of getting HIV from sex by about 99%. It’s slightly less effective if not taken consistently.

Are there any side effects of taking Oral PrEP?

Most people on Oral PrEP experience no side effects, but some may encounter mild symptoms like nausea, headache, or fatigue, which usually subside over time.

How do I start Oral PrEP?

Starting Oral PrEP involves consulting with a healthcare provider, undergoing necessary screenings and tests, and discussing your health and risk factors. Your provider will guide you through the process and monitor your health regularly.

Can I stop taking Oral PrEP if my risk level changes?

Yes, you can stop taking Oral PrEP if you and your healthcare provider agree that your risk of HIV has decreased. However, it’s important to discuss this decision thoroughly to ensure continuous protection if your risk level changes again.