We discuss HIV as needed, in many articles. Yes, we call it a gay male disease, but we follow that up by reminding you that it’s not even close to being the totality of gay male health concerns and should not be the end of your search for knowledge about your body.
With this being said, we would like to bring your attention to two medical interventions.
The first one is PrEP ( (pre-exposure prophylaxis) which has been tested many times, by healthcare organizations around the world, and found to be 99.99% effective in preventing the transmission of HIV in homosexual males.
There are two medications approved for use as PrEP: Truvada and Descovy.
- Truvada®external icon is for all people at risk through sex or injection drug use.
- Descovy®external icon is for people at risk through sex.
The second one is PEP (post exposure prophylaxis). Even though PEP has been around longer than PrEP, it is not as well known or used by gay males. This might be because there is a limited time window that allows you to begin this regime with maximum success.
“PEP is the use of antiretroviral drugs after a single high-risk event to stop HIV seroconversion. PEP must be started as soon as possible to be effective—and always within 72 hours of a possible exposure.”
If a medical provider has been exposed to HIV, PEP is the first response for treatment. So, it obviously works.
HIV treatment has come a very long way from the bad ole days of just AZT, or the need to take handfuls of medications three times a day, every day, at the exact same time. But, none of this matters if you are not informed about your options or refuse to take the medications as prescribed.
The list of active medications prescribed by medical providers is constantly growing and changing as our understanding of the virus and possible medication side-effects become greater. The best advancement has been the once a day, single pill option. “Single-tablet treatment regimens, or STRs, are becoming popular. STRs also known as fixed-dose combinations, mix several drugs into one tablet or capsule that you take once a day. You take an STR around the same time every day. You’ll need to take some STRs with food.”
This virus has created an entire scientific field around itself. Understanding the terms most commonly used and the types of possible treatments, will make conversations with your medical providers easier, faster and more productive.
- The treatment for HIV is called antiretroviral therapy (ART). ART involves taking a combination of HIV medicines (called an HIV treatment regimen) every day.
- ART is recommended for everyone who has HIV. People with HIV should start taking HIV medicines as soon as possible. ART can’t cure HIV, but HIV medicines help people with HIV live longer, healthier lives. ART also reduces the risk of HIV transmission.
- A main goal of HIV treatment is to reduce a person’s viral load to an undetectable level. An undetectable viral load means that the level of HIV in the blood is too low to be detected by a viral load test. People with HIV who maintain an undetectable viral load have effectively no risk of transmitting HIV to their HIV-negative partners through sex.
There are many HIV medicines available for HIV regimens. The HIV medicines are grouped into seven drug classes according to how they fight HIV.
The choice of an HIV regimen depends on a person’s individual needs. When choosing an HIV regimen, people with HIV and their health care providers consider many factors, including possible side effects of HIV medicines and potential drug interactions.
A full list of HIV medications as of 2020, may be found HERE. Not only does it have the name of the drugs but also links to more information about it, side effects, drug interactions and even a retail price guide. There are also pictures for those of you, like us, that can’t remember names of medications all the time.
BEFORE YOU GO
As amazing as our progress in treatment and prevention for HIV infections has come, three issues still plague us as a community.
- Lack of testing: This includes for STIs but also other infections and even the common flu. Knowledge is power, and if you are getting regular check-ups, they should include tests for sexually transmitted illnesses, and NOT JUST HIV.
- Taking the medication as prescribed by you doctor: This should go without saying, but just because you are feeling better does not mean you should cease taking your meds. This, as well, as stopping and restarting medication regimes is what causes resistance within the individual and eventually, the illness LEARNING to counteract the effects of the medications. When you don’t take the meds as prescribed, you’re hurting yourself as well as our community.
- Not getting treated at all: This one is the saddest from our perspective, especially for HIV. If guys KNOW they have HIV, and for whatever reason, they are not being properly medicated, it is as if they were living before these medications were invented. So, our advancements mean nothing. Those lives lost…nothing. Further, not being treated for HIV or any other illness can lead to a progression of even more serious illnesses. Do yourself a favour and TAKE THE DAMN MEDICATIONS.
If you, or anyone you know, is having difficulties taking medications as prescribed, click HERE for a great article with tips and suggestions that have worked for us.