Also known as PrEP, Pre-exposure Prophylaxis helps reduce HIV risk by up to 90 percent
Human Immunodeficiency Virus and Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (HIV/AIDS) aren’t exactly as talked about as other viruses and illnesses. It’s not cancer, it’s not diabetes and it’s not Alzheimer’s. We know the basics: the usual victims, the movies that dare touch on it, the way it can be transferred—but what about a cure? A prevention? In this day and age, it’s vital to stay informed.
In the third quarter of 2018, it was reported that 32 Filipinos test positive for HIV/AIDS on a daily basis. At that point, the Philippine National AIDS Council warned that the total number of Filipinos living with it would reach a quarter of a million by 2030.
That’s 11 years from now.
What is PrEP?
Pre-exposure prophylaxis is when people who are at a high risk of HIV take HIV medicine daily in order to lower their chances of actually getting infected. This calls for a combination of two medicines, tenofovir and emtricitabine, which are sold under the name Truvada®.
PrEP, when used as prescribed, can decrease the risk of HIV from sex by as much as 90 percent. The chances are even further diminished when PrEP is combined with condom use. Meanwhile, it can also reduce the risk of HIV from injected drugs by some 70 percent.
Should you take it?
Not everyone needs to take PrEP—just those adults and adolescents who are currently HIV-negative but are at a high risk of getting HIV via sex or injected drug use. This means those who have a sexual relationship with someone who is already HIV-positive or whose health status is uncertain. And if you’re sharing your needles with anyone, get on this train.
Look, we’re not in the business of passing judgement on people for their lifestyles. You do what you do and you love who you love. But what we can make a call for is safety and responsibility; you don’t go into rough waters unarmed. You can’t free-dive into the water and pray that you’ll have enough air to reach the surface.
So if you’re in the water, give yourself a little extra layer of security.
What’re the side effects?
Like most other medicines, PrEP does have its side effects. As it is, only 10 percent of those that take it daily report bouts of nausea, diarrhea and headaches—and even these seem to go away with time. The important bottom line is there haven’t been any casualties because of PrEP.
Where do you get it?
The Philippines is not the most updated country when it comes to medicine and sciences, but we’re trying to keep up. So while our primary HIV prevention efforts was condom distribution, things are moving forward. Enter: Project PrEPPY.
In partnership with leading clinicians, civil society organizations, researchers and the World Health Organization, Project PrEPPY was designed to be a two-year pilot project in Manila that began in 2017. Two hundred HIV-negative individuals were given PrEP for free in order to see how feasible mass distribution would be.
So now, those who are interested can access PrEP via LoveYourself.ph.
In 2008, there were two daily cases of HIV-positive individuals. In 2013, this daily rate increased to 13. By 2015, the number increased to 22 per day. And as mentioned earlier, it was 32 cases day in and day out last year.
There isn’t a cure for HIV/AIDS yet, but there is a way to help prevent it. And what is it that they say? Oh, yeah: An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
Art Alexandra Lara