Common Misconceptions about PrEP
PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) is a daily oral medication introduced in 2012 under the brand Truvada that has been proven to reduce the chance of HIV infection in high-risk individuals by up to 92 percent While this new preventative measure was welcome news to society as a whole, it was a particularly important development for LGBTQ people—as our community and other men who have sex with men experience higher rates of infection than other groups.
Unfortunately, as with many new medical breakthroughs, the facts surrounding this medication have been hazy at times, and this has led to the development of several common myths and misconceptions about the drug. Since HIV is such a serious, life-changing chronic illness, it's important to set the record straight when it comes to PrEP and what it can (and cannot) do. Here are three of the most common misconceptions about this important medical treatment.
Misconception #1: It negates the need for condoms.
Like every other STD prevention method, it's not 100 percent effective, and clinical trials are still being conducted to determine how condom use affects individuals taking the medication. Additionally, the drug offers no protection against other STDs. That's why it's important to continue using condoms even though your risk of infection may already be drastically reduced.
Misconception #2: It encourages promiscuity.
The LGBTQ community is no stranger to unfair sexual stigmas. Unfortunately, PrEP users have been exposed to accusations of promiscuity and irresponsibility for taking the drug—and sometimes from those of us within our own community. This attitude of judgment and condemnation is not only cruel but also illogical. Consenting adults have been enjoying casual sex long before this medication arrived. The only thing it truly encourages is responsible sex.
Misconception #3: It is only necessary before sex.
Users taking a single pill on a day they plan to have sex will do little to decrease their risk of contracting HIV. The medication simply doesn't work this way—it takes time for its preventative effects to accumulate. According to the CDC, users should take it for at least 21 days before engaging in sex. An occasional missed dose will not reduce the drug's effectiveness, but it's still important to strive for daily usage.