PrEP may be a term that is not yet very well known in itself, but is well known when you talk about medication for prevention of HIV. More than 800 people in the Netherlands are infected with HIV every year. Research shows that if people use PrEP, the risk of infection is very small, with 99% not becoming infected if used properly.
What is PrEP?
PrEP stands for Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis and it is a medicine that contains HIV inhibitors. If you are at risk of contracting HIV, you can use this medicine preventively. You can take these pills every day or only around sex. PrEP does not protect against other STDs, such as chlamydia and gonorrhea.
PEP is different from PrEP, because PEP is used as an emergency treatment after you may have contracted HIV.
Who is PrEP for?
This medicine is suitable for anyone who is at risk of contracting HIV. Examples are men who have sex with men, if sex is your job or if you are transgender and have sex with men. You can also think of women who want to become pregnant while their partner has HIV.
There are cases in which you absolutely should not use PrEP. If you have active hepatitis B or less well-functioning kidneys, the use of PrEP is excluded.
Before you can start taking this medicine, you need a supervisor, for example your GP or a nurse from the GGD. Research is carried out, both physically and in your blood, to assess whether you can safely use this medicine.
How do you use PrEP?
It is advisable to take a pill of this medicine every day when having sex in the vagina. Start taking the medication at least six days before you have sex so that you are well protected. If you have sex in the anus only, you can take PrEP before and after sex.
The medicine only works if you take it correctly and if you do not have HIV. It is therefore advisable to take a STD test regularly as a check.
Your supervisor, such as your GP or a nurse at the soap clinic, can give you advice and support on which use of PrEP suits you and how to set this up in your life.
What does PrEP cost?
You can buy PrEP from different manufacturers. On average, the pills cost 25 euros for 30 pills. In exceptional situations you may be eligible for this medication from the GGD and you will only pay a small personal contribution.
PrEP is not yet reimbursed by Dutch health insurance.
Does PrEP cause side effects?
In general, the side effects are not too bad and the mild ones such as headaches, nausea and stomach problems are the most common. After two weeks, side effects generally subside if you stick to a daily use schedule.
If you consistently take your medication, the protection is good and the side effects are rare.