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PrEP Means One Less Thing to Worry About

Sunday August 15, 2021
Originally published on August 13, 2021

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Nearly 40,000 people are diagnosed with HIV each year. That includes about 28,000 Black and Latino/a people. That number can be close to zero with PrEP.

Pre-exposure prophylaxis or PrEP is medication designed to prevent HIV. It is recommended especially for people who practice unprotected sex, men who have sex with other men, or people who share needles.

There are more than 1.1 million people in the U.S. who could benefit from taking PrEP. AltaMed is here to answer any questions, and help you determine if PrEP could be right for you.


HIV Transmission Basics

HIV exploded into our consciousness in the early 1980s and was seen as a "gay" disease because the first patients were gay men. But it spread quickly beyond gay men. Male-to-male sexual contact remains the highest transmission category at 66%. However, men are not the only population impacted. Women account for 1 in 5 HIV infections. What's more, a 2020 CDC report surveying seven major U.S. cities found that 42% of transwomen were HIV positive.

HIV can only be transmitted through blood, semen, pre-seminal fluids, rectal fluids, vaginal fluids, and breast milk.

The best ways to protect against HIV include:

  • Engage in safer-sex practices
  • Limiting your number of sexual partners
  • Talking to partners about their HIV/STI status
  • Using a condom when you have sex
  • Getting regularly tested for sexually transmitted infections
  • Only using sterile injection equipment if you inject drugs
  • Talking to your doctor about PrEP


    Who should consider PrEP?

    It's best to talk to your doctor before starting any new medication. However, according to the CDC, PrEP is recommended for people who are HIV negative who have had anal or vaginal sex in the last six months and:

  • Have a partner with HIV
  • Have not consistently used a condom
  • Have been diagnosed with an STI in the last six months

    PrEP is also recommended for people without HIV who inject drugs and:

  • Have an injection partner with HIV
  • Share needles, syringes, or other equipment to inject drugs

    Doctors will also recommend PrEP to people without HIV who have been prescribed treatment after potential exposure to HIV, hepatitis B, or hepatitis C — also known as post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP). They will especially recommend it if the person has used multiple courses of PEP, or engage in activities that put them at risk.


    What to Take and How to Take It

    The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved two drugs — Truvada and Descovy — for PrEP. Studies have shown when taken as prescribed and used consistently, PrEP reduces the risk of HIV from sex by up to 99% and more than 70% for people who inject drugs.

    PrEP needs to be taken daily for it to be its most effective. While it is up to 99% effective in preventing HIV from sex, using a condom adds an extra measure of protection and also prevents the transmission of other STIs. PrEP can be taken safely along with birth control and hormone therapy.


    HIV Prevention and Support

    AltaMed is one of the largest HIV service providers in Los Angeles and Orange counties serving more than 2,000 patients. Our multicultural and bilingual physicians and staff can help you explore your care and prevention options so you can make the best decisions that support your sexual health and overall well-being. AltaMed provides eligible patients with medical services, medications, and other important health and community resources at low or no cost.

    You can also find real, relatable, and entertaining stories that put a twist on HIV awareness and prevention, including information on PrEP.

    If you are looking for ways to reduce your risk for HIV, call our patient service center in Los Angeles County at (323) 869-5448 or Orange County at (714) 500-0491.

    You can also follow this link to get started with AltaMed today.