What Is Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis?

Pre-exposure prophylaxis is a new way to avoid getting infected with HIV. For a long time, condoms were the only protection against this virus. For one reason or another, condoms may not be entirely comfortable or sometimes even contraindicated, so drug use becomes an excellent option. It is also worth noting that according to research data, condoms provide approximately 70% chance of protection against HIV, and for those who want to feel completely safe, it is recommended to use condoms along with PrEP medication [1]. PrEP medicine is now more and more used by people who don’t like restrictions, but at the same time take care of their health. However, like any other drug therapy, such prevention has its pros and cons, as well as side effects and contraindications. Let’s find out for whom it will be suitable and when to use it.

🔍Definition of Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP)

What is prophylaxis pre-exposure? Its definition is a strategy in which people who don’t have HIV take special medicines that prevent them from becoming infected by HIV-positive sexual partners [2]. In this case, the condom may not be used. Such HIV prevention significantly reduces the risk of infection with the virus, but doesn’t protect against sexually transmitted diseases, and also doesn’t prevent the occurrence of an unplanned pregnancy.

PrEP is very relevant for people nonstandard sexual orientation, transsexuals, as well as heterosexual men and women who often change sexual partners. People who share one needle also have an increased risk of getting HIV. PrEP are also relevant for them, although in this case, the effectiveness of the drug may be lower.

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💊Mechanism of Action

All PrEP drugs work according to a single scheme – they are able to prevent reverse transcriptase, thereby stop the viral replication process and reduce its content in the blood, preventing infection. Still, how exactly they do this? The answer is presented below.

Let’s take as an example a drug named Truvada. Truvada is an antiretroviral drug that prevents the HIV virus from multiplying. This happens by blocking the development of necessary for HIV enzyme.

Most often, HIV infects cells of the body that are part of the immune system. After an organism is infected, HIV begins to replicate itself, or rather, its RNA, the genetic structure. This process is very energy intensive for the virus and requires a special enzyme as fuel.

Truvada doesn’t allow the HIV virus to make copies of itself, and therefore the infection can’t spread further and progress to AIDS [3]. With no replication, the virus dies, but this happening only if Truvada was used as PrEP or shortly after contact with an infected person.

For the same reason, PrEP often used as a complex therapy to prevent the transition of HIV to AIDS.

The effectiveness of these PrEP drugs is very high. When properly administered at the same time seven days a week, their reliability is 99%. When taken every one of two days, the effectiveness drops to 96%, and with two tablets per week to 76%. However, when comes to sharing one needle the effectiveness of the drug reaches only 70% even with daily intake, so be careful [4].

Although no toxic effects on mitochondria in human cells were detected, the PrEP drugs still have side effects. The most common are:

  • headache;
  • dyspepsia;
  • sleep disorders;
  • urticaria;
  • in rare cases development of serious liver or kidney diseases.

Therefore, it is very important to compare the benefits and harms of these drugs before use. A qualified doctor will help you with this. Be sure to gather as much information as possible before buying a PrEP medicine [5].

📅When to Take PrEP for HIV Prevention?

As mentioned above, these drugs are relevant for those who share one needle, have frequent sexual contacts with different partners and gay orientation. Sometimes even in stable relationships one of the partners becomes infected with HIV. In these cases, the PrEP medication is the only way for a healthy partner to maintain such relationships without risking own health.

Although these drugs are prophylactic, in some cases they can be used after infection. If you have had unprotected sexual intercourse, you should take PrEP drug for a month and then test yourself for HIV to make sure the medicine is effective [6].


HIV prevention is an excellent opportunity to significantly reduce the risk of contracting an incurable disease, but without having sexual restrictions. If this is exactly your case, then PrEP will be the best choice for you. Here you will find all necessary information on generic and brand-name drugs. HIVPrEP is a reliable online source, that is especially important for those who just start taking PrEP drugs or using them for treating HIV.

High-quality drugs for PrEP must be accessible to everyone. Antiretroviral therapy for HIV / AIDS is currently very effective, but only prevention will stop the pandemic.


  1. Factsheet: Do condoms work? NAM Aidsmap. Retrieved February 2019.
  2. Pre-exposure prophylaxis. HIV.gov internet portal. Retrieved 21 May 2018.
  3. NRTIs overview. Healthline Media. Retrieved 28 February 2015.
  4. Uptake of pre-exposure prophylaxis. US National Institutes of Health, September 2014.
  5. Identifying Adverse Effects of HIV Drug Treatment and Associated Sentiments Using Twitter. JMIR Public Health Surveill. Jul-Dec 2015.
  6. AC Bailey, M Fisher – British medical bulletin. CiteSeerˣ digital library. Retrieved 29 August 2008.
Logan Morris

Expert in pharmaceutical practice and antiviral medicine, founder of HIVPrEP. Main goal is to popularize HIV topics and create awareness for global masses on how to prevent the disease and how to use HIV medication safely.

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