What is PrEP?
PrEP (or pre-exposure prophylaxis) is a pill that can be taken daily, just like the contraceptive pill, to prevent the user catching HIV. Approximately two-thirds of all women aged 20-24 are using the oral contraceptive pill daily, a medicine which has been praised as ‘revolutionising’ the modern world and greatly reducing the rate of unwanted pregnancy, proving that preventative medicines can be hugely effective and well-received.
Is PrEP a positive option?
There are currently over 100,000 people living with HIV in the UK, a staggering and unnecessary figure that only seems to rise. Many cases of HIV contraction are entirely avoidable, and PrEP is a solution to many people’s risk issues. There is, however, the risk that people will treat the possibility of contracting HIV with a degree of flippancy upon the introduction of a preventative medicine, much as those who use oral contraceptives are less likely to use a condom. Condoms are still exceptionally important in the containment of serious diseases such as HIV, and they also stop additional sexually transmitted infections from being passed on through intercourse. Tests carried out on trial subjects have so far shown no indication that PrEP encourages or produces risky behaviour or a lack of condom use.
Who should take PrEP?
As it stands, PrEP is currently being used as an advisory method of reducing the chance of catching HIV for those already at a high risk – for example, somebody whose partner is HIV positive. It is only at the trial stage in the UK, but has been readily available in the USA since 2012. It is currently being tested predominantly on gay and bisexual males, who statistically have the greatest proportion of HIV cases in the country. As a new medicine, the side effects are still being monitored, but many doctors backing the experiment have stressed that taking medication for something you are not at a high risk of is likely to do more bad than good.
Is PrEP a sustainable medicine?
PrEP has been criticised as unnecessary and expensive, providing healthy people with medication that the NHS will have to pay for, all for a disease they don’t have. However, tests have shown that PrEP greatly reduces the probability of HIV, a lifelong illness that requires the afflicted individual to be medicated continually from the point of contraction; in fact, the preventative issuing of PrEP is a much more affordable and sustainable option and saves people needless suffering.
When will PrEP be readily available?
Currently, PrEP is expected to be released for general prescription in 2017, although campaigns for immediate releases for those at the highest risk have begun and are making headway towards releasing medicine earlier than expected.