Protecting Yourself From HIV
Grace Weatherby
/ Categories: WELLNESS, 2023

Protecting Yourself From HIV

Approximately 1.2 million people in the U.S. have HIV. About 13% of them don't know it and need testing.

HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis drugs, otherwise known as PrEP, are powerful weapons against HIV. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, when taken as prescribed, these drugs can reduce the risk of getting HIV through sex by almost 99%. Also highly effective among people who inject drugs, PrEP is a critical component of the U.S. strategy to eliminate new HIV infections.

Currently available as an extremely well-tolerated and easy daily oral medication—as easy as daily vitamin—and a long-acting injectable every two months, PrEP is recommended for people who are HIV-negative but are at risk for acquiring the virus from either sex or injection drug use.

PrEP should be taken if you: 

  • Have had unprotected sex in the past six months 
  • Have a sexual partner with HIV 
  • Have been diagnosed with a sexually transmitted disease in the past six months 
  • Inject drugs and have an injection partner with HIV 
  • Share needles, syringes, or other drug injection equipment 

PrEP should NOT be used in emergencies, as a one-time-only strategy, as a prevention method for other STIs or pregnancy, or for people who are living with HIV.

And be aware: while PrEP protects you against HIV, it does not protect against other sexually transmitted infections or other types of infections. Combining PrEP with condoms will reduce your risk of getting other STIs. 

If you’re concerned about the cost of PrEP, you’ll be happy to learn that, thanks to US government issued guidelines, most private health plans must cover PrEP at zero costs to you. This means ZERO co-pays, co-insurance, or deductibles for:

  • Medication
  • PrEP provider visits
  • Labs
  • HIV & STI screenings
  • Adherence counseling
  • Pregnancy tests

For more information on paying for PrEP or disputing charges, click here.

To learn if PrEP is right for you, ask your provider how you can best help protect yourself from STIs and HIV. Primary care providers, infectious disease specialists, and OB/GYNs are all familiar with and often prescribe it for their patients.

 

Find HIV Testing and Services Near You
Knowing your HIV status gives you powerful information to keep you and your partner healthy. If your test result is positive, you can take medicine to treat the virus; if you’re negative you can take PrEP to reduce your risks of contracting HIV.
Click here to find HIV testing and related services near you.


 
Kimberley Sampson, MD, FACOG, DABOM​ is the chair of the Department of OB/GYN at Southwestern Vermont Medical Center, part of Southwestern Vermont Health Care, in Bennington.

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