People who are not considered “at risk” of contracting HIV may not be familiar with terms like TasP and PrEP – but these are invaluable tools in the fight to end HIV. Here’s what they are, and here’s how we use them.
By Barrett White
Although there have been recent breakthroughs, there is no cure for HIV – yet. In the meantime, the effort to end HIV is focused on by preventing the spread of the virus, and fostering healthy lives for those who are already living with it. Treatment has come a long way since the early days of the crisis, and thankfully that means that those living with HIV are able to live happy, healthy lives with proper medical treatment. It also means that preventing the spread of the virus is easier than ever before with the help of a once daily pill.
- TasP: Treatment as Prevention. This is the practice of accessing treatment for HIV to prevent spreading to a sexual partner. This is used for those who are living with the virus already.
- PrEP: Pre-exposure prophylaxis. As the name suggests, this is a daily course of medications that you take pre-exposure, meaning that you have not been exposed to HIV. Taking once daily PrEP medication reduces the risk of getting HIV from sex by about 99%, according to the CDC.
Medication that treats HIV is called antiretroviral therapy, or ART. If taken daily, ART can reduce the viral load to an undetectable level, which is called viral suppression—defined as having less than 200 copies of HIV per milliliter of blood.
Maintaining an undetectable viral load helps prevent transmission to others through sex and from mother to child during pregnancy, birth, and breastfeeding. This process of taking ART, achieving undetectable status, and preventing the spread is referred to as treatment as prevention.
PrEP on the other hand, is a way for people who do not have HIV to prevent infection by taking one pill every day. When taken daily, PrEP is highly effective for preventing HIV. However, PrEP is much less effective if it is not taken consistently.
People who use PrEP must commit to taking the drug every day and seeing their health care provider for follow-up every 3 months. Since PrEP does not protect against other STDs, it is further recommended that other means of safe sex be practiced, such as condoms.
With the Legacy Montrose pilot program PrEP Rx, a patient can enter the clinic and bypass check-in, move directly to the pharmacy, and be tested for HIV. Upon a negative diagnosis, the patient is streamlined into preventative care. Should the test prove positive, the patient is immediately moved into treatment to bring down their viral load. Both outcomes ensure that the chance of spreading the virus is minimal.
Legacy is committed to ending the HIV epidemic in Houston through health education across the communities we serve, legislative and grassroots efforts to educate our communities, and discussing the virus with thought leaders like the CDC, as we did during the National HIV Prevention Conference this year .
Know your status – prevention is key to ending HIV. Do your part and get tested with Legacy today. It’s free.