Have you seen the Truvada for PrEP commercials? Human Immunodeficiency Virus or HIV is not something I ever learned about in sexual education in school. I also lived most of my life thinking HIV and AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome) were the same thing. 

HIV is a virus that takes over cells in the body of an infected person and weakens the immune system, making it impossible for the virus to get cleared out of the infected person. HIV can be spread through certain bodily fluids such as blood, semen, pre-seminal fluid or pre-cum, rectal fluids, vaginal fluids, and breast milk. People can become infected with HIV by sharing a needle or having unprotected sex with someone who is infected with HIV.

AIDS is the final stage of HIV. A person is diagnosed with AIDS if or when their immune system is no longer working the way it should. HIV turns into AIDS if the virus is untreated and weakens the immune system over time.

Thanks to awareness of HIV and AIDS and advances in modern medicine, there is now a daily pill available to help prevent the spread of HIV. Pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP, is an effective way to prevent HIV. When used correctly, PrEP can reduce the risk of infection through sex by 90%, and reduce the risk of infection through injecting drugs by 70%.

What is Truvada?

Truvada is the daily pill prescribed for preventing the spread of HIV. If the pill is taken every day as directed, it is highly effective. Truvada’s website states that when the pill is used as directed, combined with safe sex practices such as condoms and dental dams, a person’s risk of getting HIV from a partner or partners decreases significantly.

People wanting to take Truvada need to start taking the pill before they are infected with HIV. You cannot take the pill if you already have HIV. For example if you have a new partner that you know has HIV, you’ll want to get tested to ensure you aren’t infected, then begin taking the pill before you have sexual contact involving any of the bodily fluids mentioned above. You must be tested before you start to make sure you don’t have HIV, and once you start the pill, you should be tested once every three months to ensure you haven’t contracted HIV, and to check for other sexually transmitted infections. People with other sexually transmitted infections are more likely to contract HIV, so regularly getting tested is essential for Truvada to be most effective.

Like with any medicine, there are side effects to Truvada such as a worsened case of Hepatitis B, kidney problems, liver problems, and bone problems. A full list of side effects can be found here on Truvada’s website.

Truvada for PrEP is a game changer. Not only does this pill help prevent people from contracting HIV, but it also helps destigmatize the virus. I’ve seen countless billboards and commercials for Truvada since the pill has been on the market, and hopefully this exposure will start important conversations so that more people are educated, and help people live happy and healthy lives.