Taking PrEP is one way to reduce your risk of getting HIV but there are other effective ways to reduce your risk alongside the medication.
Both male and female condoms are effective protection against HIV and other STIs. It can be used for anal and vaginal sex, and for oral sex performed on men. HIV can be passed on before ejaculation so it’s important to put condoms on before any sexual contact between the penis, vagina, anus, or mouth.
Using lubricants can enhance sexual pleasure but also improve safety by reducing friction or dryness. This reduces the risk of causing anal or vaginal tears which can increase the risk of transmission. Lubricants can also prevent condoms tearing.
Be aware that oil based lubricants (like vaseline) can actually damage the latex in condoms and should be avoided for this reason. Use water-based lubricants (like KY Jelly) when using condoms.
If you are someone who injects drugs, you may be at higher risk of getting HIV. You should avoid sharing any syringes, needles, or any other equipment used to prepare or inject drugs. You should use clean, sterile needles for each injection.
Many pharmacies and local health schemes may offer a needle exchange programme. They will give you new, sterile needles in exchange for used needles. You can find a list of places that do needle exchange in Scotland here. You can also speak to your GP surgery or local substance misuse team for local information.
Treatment as prevention
When an HIV positive person takes effective HIV treatment, it reduces their viral load to undetectable levels. If someone has an undetectable viral load for longer than 6 months, it usually means that it is not possible to pass the virus on during sex. This is known as ‘treatment as prevention’.
Treatment for HIV infection is called antiretroviral therapy (ART). This includes different types of HIV medicines such as protease inhibitors and integrase inhibitors. If you are HIV positive, it is vital that you take your HIV medication as prescribed by your doctor.
PrEP (HIV) stands for pre-exposure prophylaxis. It is an oral tablet taken daily that helps to prevent you from getting HIV if you are exposed to the virus. This can be prescribed to people who are considered at high risk of getting HIV such as:
- People with an HIV positive partner
- Gay and bisexual men who have unprotected sex with men
- People who inject drugs and share equipment
- People who engage in chemsex
The active ingredients in PrEP in the UK are emtricitabine and tenofovir disoproxil. You must test negative for HIV before starting PrEP (and during treatment) because it can cause drug resistance if you take it when positive. You can order an HIV test kit from us online.