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What is PrEP, pills to prevent HIV, and how it works

Cities such as London, San Francisco, and New York register fewer and fewer new AIDS infections and experts link most of these achievements with pills: PrEP, better known as PrEP.

If you drink it every day PrEP This reduces the possibility of contracting HIV through sex more than 90% or 70% by using needles that are not sterilized or used by many people, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC for its acronym in English).

US pharmaceutical company Gilead Sciences began marketing it in 2012 under the Truvada brand.

And, three years later, the World Health Organization (WHO) began recommending its use to prevent HIV among groups at high risk of contracting HIV, such as homosexuals, bisexual men and their female partners, sex workers or sex workers. partner of someone who is infected with this virus.

But while the results have been seen in developed countries, the high prices of these treatments have distanced them from the most vulnerable areas.

Chile, for example, is one of the 10 countries in the world where new HIV patients are present they increased by more than 50% between 2010 and 2017, according to the United Nations Joint Program for HIV / AIDS (UNAIDS).

And there PrEP costs between US $ 575 and US $ 645 per month, according to the press in that country.

In the first quarter of 2019, however, the government will distribute it for free as part of an ambitious national plan to fight AIDS, because new infections have doubled between 2010 and 2017, according to the Institute of Public Health of Chile (ISP).

But how does it work?

Side effects

PrEP contains emtricitabine and tenofovir, two drugs that are also used in ARVs because they reduce the amount of virus in the blood and prevent it from multiplying.

The CDC does not function as a vaccine, because it does not produce antibodies, but daily intake is needed so that emtricitabine and tenofovir are in the blood at the time of infection and prevent HIV from forming in the body, the CDC explained. web page

However, PrEP this is not for everyone. Before starting to take it, it must be removed that the patient has been infected with the virus. It is also important to verify good kidney and liver conditions, because the pill can cause interference with these organs.

Experts recommend limiting their use to those at risk of contracting HIV, because treatment might involve side effects such as nausea, abdominal pain or headache and, in more extreme cases, accumulation of lactic acid in the blood.

In addition, those who suffer from hepatitis B must be very careful, because if they start using Truvada and then stop treatment, it is very likely that hepatitis will worsen.

Not 100% perfect

Take PrEP does not mean that other prevention methods can be ignored. The pill does not protect against other sexually transmitted diseases such as gonorrhea, syphilis or genital herpes, which cannot be cured.

Nothing is 100% perfect. Although they are rare, there are at least five cases of people who they have HIV even though they use Truvada and two more cases where it cannot be completely ruled out that patients have gotten the virus before starting taking pills, according to the Aidsmap AIDS portal.

There are some exceptions among thousands of people who use PrEP. However, even so, treatment must be accompanied by other prevention methods such as condoms and periodic HIV testing.

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