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The HIV prevention pill is often sold under the brandname Truvada. (Tony Webster, Flickr)

How to use the HIV prevention pill

Antiretrovirals (ARVs) don’t just treat HIV, the medication can also prevent people from contracting the virus.

Today, a two-in-one combination pill of the ARVs tenofovir and emtricitabine has been shown to reduce the risk of becoming infected with HIV by about 99% if taken correctly.

The tablet is often sold under the brand name Truvada and is a form of pre-exposure prophlaxis (PrEP). It should not be taken by people who are already living with HIV.

You don’t have to take PrEP forever. You can choose to take it during times in your life when you feel most at-risk of HIV infection. When your life and this risk changes, you can talk to your healthcare provider about whether you can stop taking the pill.

Does everyone have to take PrEP everyday?

Source: AVAC PrEP Watch

Most people, especially persons who are at risk of HIV infection — should take Truvada daily to protect against HIV infection.

But men who can predict when they will have sex can choose to take the pill daily or just when they need it as part of what the World Health Organisation and others call “PrEP on-demand” or “PrEP 2-1-1”.

Several clinical trials have proven that PrEP taken in a specific regimen before and after sex, is up to 99% effective in preventing HIV infection. This regimen, referred to as 2+1+1 means taking two tablets of Truvada two to 24 hours before engaging in sex, one tablet 24 hours after the first two tablets were taken, and lastly another one tablet 24 hours after that.

If sex continues for a few consecutive days, men should take a tablet each day that sex happens.

It’s important to remember that PrEP on demand is not part of national guidelines in many countries including South Africa, although it may be offered in the private sector

In countries that do not offer PrEP on demand, people should take Truvada daily to protect themselves against HIV. – Compiled by Laura López González. Reviewed for medical accuracy by Jacqueline Pienaar, CEO of The Centre for HIV-Aids Prevention Studies (Chaps)