Medications that treat HIV can also effectively prevent HIV. This is known as treatment as prevention (TasP).
Undetectable = Untransmittable
For someone living with HIV, the goal of treatment is to suppresses the virus to undetectable levels, also known as having an undetectable viral load. When undetectable, studies have shown that HIV will not be transmitted through sex. In other words, HIV that is undetectable is sexually untransmittable, or U=U. This applies to oral, vaginal, and anal sex as well as sex with and without a condom. Maintaining an undetectable viral load has other benefits too: it’s better for people’s immune systems and long-term health, it prevents HIV transmission from parent to child during pregnancy/birth, it prevents transmission between partners with different HIV statuses, and it reduces the risk of HIV transmission between people who share drug equipment. As it’s not a cure, maintaining an undetectable viral load does require taking HIV medications as prescribed and seeing a care provider regularly for monitoring, including routine viral load testing.
In order for U=U to reach its full potential as a prevention strategy, it is imperative that all people living with HIV have access to the treatment they need to keep themselves and their communities healthy, and that medication costs and poverty aren’t barriers to suppressing the virus.
Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP)
What is PrEP?
- Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) is a way for an HIV-negative person at risk of HIV infection to reduce their risk.
- One form of PrEP involves taking the anti-HIV medication Tenofovir DF 300 mg/Emtricitabine 200 mg (brand name = Truvada) on a daily basis.
- Tenofovir/Emtricitabine (Truvada) for PrEP has been approved by Health Canada.
How much does PrEP cost?
- The cost of Tenofovir/Emtricitabine (Truvada) ranges from $250-$1000/month depending on the brand.
- This cost is NOT covered by Manitoba Pharmacare, but may be covered by some third party/private insurance companies.
- The cost is covered for people who have First Nations & Inuit Health Branch benefits.
How should PrEP be used or prescribed?
- PrEP should be used together with other prevention strategies like condoms.
- Before starting PrEP, a detailed assessment of risks and benefits should be done by a health care provider.
- PrEP requires daily adherence to the medication and HIV/STI testing, urine and blood work monitoring every three months.
- There are potential side effects to the medication.
- There are risks for developing drug resistance if a person becomes infected with HIV while taking PrEP.
For more Information on PrEP:
- For patients: http://www.catie.ca/en/fact-sheets/prevention/pre-exposure-prophylaxis-prep
- For health care providers: http://www.cfenet.ubc.ca/publications/centre-documents/guidance-use-pre-exposure-prophylaxis-prep-prevention-hiv-acquisition
Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP)
- Post-exposure prophylaxis, or PEP, is a way to help prevent the transmission of HIV in an HIV-negative person after a potential exposure.
- Anyone who thinks they may have been exposed to HIV should contact a health care provider immediately. Go to your nearest emergency department and tell them you want to access PEP
- PEP is a regimen of HIV drugs that needs to be taken every day for 4 weeks.
- PEP should be taken as soon as possible after a suspected exposure to HIV as it is most effective within 72 hours.
- Nine Circles sees individuals who have already started PEP for monitoring and follow up testing.