As a doctor in Atlanta, I serve a huge LGBT population. One of the top health concerns in this community is HIV. But the idea that HIV is a gay person’s disease has long since been dead. Today, heterosexual women are still contracting the disease at the highest rate, and the disease affects more than 1 million people in the United States.
Two weeks ago, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced a new drug to help prevent the spread of HIV between sexual partners. PrEP, Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis, when taken on a daily basis, can reduce the risk of HIV infection by more than 90 percent; inconsistent use results in much lower levels of protection, states the CDC.
I recommend Truvada for PrEP for all individuals who are sexually active with more than one partner and for individuals in a committed relationship where one partner is HIV positive and the other is HIV negative. I stress the need to take Truvada every day. The side effects are few, and most people take Truvada without any problems.
The most important things to note are the following:
- PrEP should not be used alone as a preventative measure for contracting HIV. It should be used in combination with other safe sex methods to prevent the spread of diseases: using condoms and other safe sex practices. This does not give the green light to engage in risky, sexual behavior that can be detrimental to your health.
- It is essential to have a conversation with your healthcare provider before beginning PrEP. Work closely with your doctor if you are at high risk for contracting HIV. In addition to taking the pill daily, patients must maintain regular office visits and be monitored and counseled while taking this medication. This is not a “Get out of jail free card.” There are guidelines that must be strictly followed by both the physician and the patient.
PrEP should be considered for HIV-uninfected patients with any of the following indications:
- Anyone who is in an ongoing sexual relationship with an HIV-infected partner
- A gay or bisexual man who has had sex without a condom or has been diagnosed with a sexually transmitted infection within the past six months, and is not in a mutually monogamous relationship with a partner who recently tested HIV-negative
- A heterosexual man or woman who does not always use condoms when having sex with partners known to be at risk for HIV (for example, injecting drug users or bisexual male partners of unknown HIV status), and is not in a mutually-monogamous relationship with a partner who recently tested HIV-negative
- Anyone who has, within the past six months, injected illicit drugs and shared equipment or been in a treatment program for injection drug use
PrEP is considered lifelong therapy.
Dr. Parry has been treating patients with HIV/AIDS since the late ’90s. His expertise helps patients living with HIV/AIDS maintain their health so they can live a full life. If you or someone you know is at high risk for the disease, contact Dr. Parry today at 404.541.0944 or visit http://www.intownprimarycare.com.