The other day I was telling an acquaintance that I had completed a year of being on PrEP last year in November and I was really proud of myself for making such a decision and sticking to it. She mentioned that she had seen me advocating for PrEP but admitted that she had actually been meaning to ask me what PrEP is because she also wanted to know.
At that moment I felt like the nurse in Episode 3 who was explaining what PrEP is to Dineo who wanted to make she was extra protected as she was having sex with an older guy.
I felt like it was my duty to educate her about PrEP because adolescents and young women in South Africa are actually the key populations that are being catered for when it comes to PrEP administration. These two groups are believed to be at a higher risk of contracting HIV because some men seldom test for HIV, instead opting to test themselves through their partners.
Who should use PrEP?
When my friend asked the question above, I mentioned to her that:
PrEP or Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis is taken by HIV negative people who believe they are at risk of being exposed to HIV. This pill is taken as added protection and is used in conjunction with condoms.
PrEP is different from PEP. PEP, or Post-Exposure Prophylaxis, is taken if you’ve already been exposed to HIV, hence it is called POST; while PrEP is taken to prevent, which is why it is called PRE-exposure Prophylaxis.
"How do I take PrEP correctly?"
PrEP should be taken at the same time every day. It is best to choose a time when you know you won't forget. Many people opt to take their pill in the morning after brushing their teeth because they know that they will always brush every day.
If you miss one, or even two pills sometimes, you will still be fine as long as you go back to a daily regimen of taking it at the same time each day. However don’t stop PrEP if you miss a few days, rather just carry on once you remember. This has happened to me but when I have remembered I always took it immediately.
"I've heard about side effects. Are they severe?"
Like all other medicines, PrEP has the potential to cause side effects. I have been lucky in that I have not experienced any side-effects, although some people have mentioned that they have experienced nausea, insomnia and sometimes vomiting. These are uncomfortable conditions but thankfully they go away after a week or so.
Taking PrEP for vaginal and anal sex is completely different, with vaginal sex you need to take for much longer before it starts ‘working’ in comparison to anal sex.
If anything, taking PrEP has taught me more about safer sex as well as HIV because I had to read up on it and by doing so I came across much information on safe sex which is why I made it my mission to educate people about it.
Do you want to know more about PrEP or find your nearest PrEP providers? You can visit our partners MyPrepSA on this website who have all the details you need about PrEP in South Africa.
While you're here...
Check out Nadia Nakai's 5-step Guide to PrEP below!