What is HIV
HIV is an acronym, which stands for human immunodeficiency virus. The virus attacks and weakens the body’s immune system, making an individual susceptible to other infections and diseases. It is mainly transmitted through contact with some bodily fluids such as semen and the blood of already infected people. The most common method of coming into contact with these fluids is unprotected sex or blood transmission. When HIV goes untreated, it leads to the development of acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). There is no known cure for this virus, and therefore, the best way to manage it is through preventive measures.
Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP)
Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) is one of the strategies used to prevent HIV from spreading. This method is used by people who do not have the virus but are at a high risk of getting it. Some of the people prescribed PrEP include adolescents and adults with increased risks, including adolescents whose chances of getting the virus are increased by drug injections and sex. The drugs work by preventing the establishment and spread of the virus within the body. Currently, the Food and Drugs Authority has only approved two drugs for use as PreP and they include tenofovir and emtricitabine (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC], 2020).
Is PrEP Right
PrEP drugs are very effective in protecting an individual from getting HIV if they are taken daily. According to the CDC (202), the drugs have shown a 99% efficacy of protection against transmission of HIV through intercourse. Moreover, they decrease the chances of spreading the virus through injections by 74% (CDC, 2020). A person must take the drugs consistently to attain their efficiency; otherwise, they become ineffective. The drugs are suitable for people with HIV-positive partners, multiple partners, having sex without using a condom, and those who share equipment such as needles for injecting drugs.
Where to Find a PrEP Provider
Persons who are at a high risk of getting the virus and want to use PrEP should visit the nearest healthcare provider or their doctors because it is only available through prescription. According to the CDC (2020), clinicians are mandated to ensure that PrEPs are available to patients getting initiated into the PrEP program and the continuing patients. A person undergoes HIV testing to check if they are negative, after which they are given a 90-day supply of drugs (CDC, 2020) In cases of hospitals or clinicians suspending their services, they should establish referral relationships with other clinics or pharmacies to ensure the patient maintains the PrEP routine
Talking to a Doctor About PrEP
Most people fear talking to their doctors about sex or sexually related infections. However, a person needs to be clear and on point in such matters to get help. Therefore, an individual should speak directly about their interest in PrEP. Moreover, they should be forthcoming in that they should share about their wellness, and health, including sexual behavior, which can increase their risks of contracting the virus. A person should be engaged in the conversation and ask questions that they do not understand. They should also take notes on the advice given as it is essential because PrEP requires a person to follow the routine meticulously to be effective.
Locating Funds for PrEP
According to the CDC, most healthcare insurance plans cover the cost of PrEP drugs; therefore, one is not charged a co-payment. Other medical assistance programs help reduce the costs of the PrEP medications for persons lacking insurance plans, and their help is not pegged to a person’s income. Besides, there are states which offer PrEP assistance programs to people. Such programs may cover the cost of the PrEP drugs, laboratory costs, and clinic visits, and some cover all of them. The image demonstrates how PrEP costs can be covered for people with or without insurance coverage (CDC, 2020).
Ideas for Remembering to take PrEP
Most people find it easy to take drugs at the same time daily. A person can link PrEP with an activity that they do regularly, such as brushing teeth, watching TV, or eating breakfast. The activities will help a person remember each day that they need to take drugs Another way to remember is by setting reminders using a mobile phone The support of a trusted family member, partner, or friend can also help a person take the medication regularly. One of the common reasons for missing doses is running out of drugs. Therefore, a person should refill when they notice few doses are remaining.
U = U
U=U stands for undetectable equals untransmittable, and the U=U campaign demonstrates the evidence that HIV patients who have suppressed their viral loads cannot transmit it to their sexual partners (Howard Brown Health, 2019). According to the HIV Medicine Association (n.d.), data collected between 2008 and 2016 revealed no HIV transmissions through condom-less sex between couples whereby one of them was HIV positive but had a suppressed viral load. Therefore, this knowledge can transform the lives and interpersonal relationships of HIV patients. Moreover, it will help them to overcome social stigma and discrimination, which makes them avoid intimate relationships.
Talking to patients about U=U
Healthcare providers should counsel patients on how U=U works; they need to be advised on having suppressed/undetectable viral load for U=U to be effective. Moreover, they should get educated on the importance of taking their HIV prescriptions regularly for optimal health and avoiding transmitting it to their partners. The clinicians should reinforce the fact of having suppressed viral load in preventing HIV transmission. HIV patients should always check their viral loads by observing medical appointments to inform their undetectable status. Additionally, U=U is not a solution for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), and the patients should use other preventive measures such as condoms or undergo screening.
Male and female condoms help to reduce the risks of sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV. Besides, they also prevent unplanned pregnancies among teens and adults. These condoms are made of latex, which provides an impermeable barrier to the vaginal and urethra secretions, which contain the HIV pathogens, hence blocking its transmission between the wearer’s penis and mucosa or genital secretions of their sexual partner. The effectiveness of condoms depends on the consistency and correctness of using them; otherwise, they become ineffective. According to the CDC (2016), the failure of condom protection is due to inconsistency or misusing them.
Using a Male Condom
People should always use a condom every time they are having sex, and they should wear the condom before sex (CDC, 2020). Before using it, it is essential to read the package instructions and check the expiry date. A person should ensure that the condom has no defects or tears, as they will compromise its effectiveness. Later or polyurethane condoms can be used, and they are lubricated using silicone-based or water-based lubricants to avoid breakage. Only one condom is used at a time and, it is advised not to reuse them. Persons should not store condoms in their wallets because friction and heat damage them. Do not lubricate condoms using oil-based products such as petroleum jelly or lotion.
How to Put on and Take off a Condom
The first step is to open the condom wrapper and remove the condom carefully (CDC, 2016). Then place the condom on the tip of a hard, erect penis; otherwise, the condom will fall off easily. In case a person is uncircumcised, they should pull the foreskin back before placing the condom. Using one hand, pinch the air out of the tip of the condom, and unroll the condom down the erect penis using the other hand (CDC, 2016). After ejaculation, hold the condom at its base, then pull it out while holding it in place. Once the condom is removed, carefully put it in a trash can.
How to Use a Female Condom
First, open the package carefully and remove the female condom, ensuring it does not break. Then locate the thick inner ring, which has a closed end. It is the part placed into the vagina, and it helps to hold the condom in position. The thin outer ring stays outside the body, and it helps to cover the vaginal opening. Then sit in a comfortable position, hold the inner ring, squeeze it between the forefinger and thumb finger, and insert it into the vagina. Push it as far up as possible and ensure it is not twisted. During sexual intercourse, guide the partner’s penis and stop intercourse if it slips between the condom and vaginal wall. To remove the condom, twist the outer ring gently and then pull it out. It is not advisable to reuse female condoms; throw them into a trash can.
Use of a Dental Dam
Dental dams refer to latex or polyurethane sheets used during oral sex, and they are placed between the vagina, mouth, or anus. A person should use a new dental dam every time they are having oral sex. Please read the package, check the expiry date, and ensure no tears or defects before using them. Store the dental dam packages in a cool and dry place. When using them, it is advisable to apply water-based or silicone-based lubricants to avoid breakage, but not oil-based lubricants. After using them, do not flush them down a toilet because you risk clogging it.
Scientific support for Use of Condoms
The condom distribution programs have shown an increase in the use of condoms and prevented the spread of HIV and STDs. Moreover, this has helped save on the costs of managing these conditions, such as the cost of antiretroviral drugs, since condoms are cheap. There are several means of promoting the use of condoms among people. Interventions at an individual, group, or community levels help to address people’s knowledge, attitude, behavior, and skills regarding the use of condoms. Structural level distribution programs can be more effective by ensuring the condoms are free, conducting distribution and promotion activities, and integrating their activities with community programs (CDC, 2019).
The human immunodeficiency virus is incurable at the moment, and one of the best methods to manage it is through preventive measures. Some of the preventive measures in place include the use of PrEP, the U=U strategy, dental dams, and the use of male and female condoms. PrEP medications are used by people at high risk of getting HIV through sex or drug injections. The U=U strategy implies that HIV cannot be transmitted when the viral load in an HIV-positive patient is undetectable. The condoms create an impermeable barrier, which prevents the transfer of genital secretions containing the virus. The spread of HIV can be significantly reduced if people adhere to these preventive strategies.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2016). Condom effectiveness.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2019). Condom distribution as a structural level intervention.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020). Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP).
HIV Medicine Association. (n.d.). HIV treatment as prevention and U=U.
Howard Brown Health (2019). Undetectable = untransmittable: What does it all mean?