Maryland’s Health Matters - Midtown - Spring 2018 - 14

SPOTLIGHT

Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis
(PrEP) - Myth vs. Fact
NEW PREVENTION STRATEGY COULD REDUCE THE RISK OF HIV TRANSMISSION
Unfortunately, many misunderstand this lifesaving strategy.
Here's how you can differentiate between the facts and the myths.

T

he human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) attacks
the body's immune system and, if left untreated,
can lead to acquired immunodeficiency syndrome

(AIDS). HIV is particularly a problem in central Maryland,
which has the third-highest infection rate in the country.
According to the Center for HIV Surveillance, Epidemiology
and Evaluation, in some pockets of Baltimore, about
5 percent of people are infected. The number is even higher
in African-Americans, transgender women and men
who have sex with men. The most recent data shows that
38 percent of men who have sex with other men in
Baltimore are already infected.
Fortunately, there is a new prevention strategy called
Pre-exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP), which can help protect
individuals at high risk of infection. Being "on PrEP" means
taking a pill called Truvada® once a day. PrEP is offered at
the University of Maryland Center for Infectious Diseases
(UM CID), in partnership with the Institute of Human
Virology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine,
and can be up to 99 percent effective at reducing HIV transmission if taken daily as directed. "This is both an individual

MYTH: Once prescribed,
I will have to take PrEP every
day for the rest of my life.
FACT: When someone begins
a discussion with a PrEP expert
at UM CID, the first step is talking
about his or her true risk of HIV and
what can be done to decrease that
risk. A person's level of risk varies
depending on sex partners, sexual
activity and other habits. When any
of these change-for example, if they
start or end a relationship, move
to another city, etc.-their risk may
be very different. This is constantly
re-evaluated to make sure each
person is using the best risk reduction
strategy. If the risk becomes low, or
the person doesn't want to take PrEP
anymore, they can stop taking it.
MYTH: With PrEP I don't
have to use condoms because
PrEP will reduce my risk of
getting other sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
FACT: PrEP is one part of a risk
reduction strategy, which should
also include condom use, frequent
HIV testing, and for some, a reduction in number of sexual partners.
Large studies show that people

taking PrEP as part of a comprehensive prevention program actually
reduced their number of sexual partners. Other small studies showed that
they had more partners. Either way,
the goal of the medical community
is to ensure that people have sex in
the safest manner possible in order to
prevent HIV transmission, not to make
judgments about behavior.
Studies on rates of STIs also have
mixed results, but the increase of STIs
in some studies is most likely because
people on PrEP have a full panel of
STI testing done every three months.
This frequent testing allows providers
to detect infections that may not even
have any symptoms yet. If people test
positive, they can be treated before
problems arise and before the infection
is passed to a partner.

MYTH: PrEP will make me sick.
FACT: Some people who take PrEP
can have mild side effects in the first
couple of weeks, including headache,
nausea and bloating. These should go
away as their body gets used to the pill.
Long-term side effects could include
kidney or bone problems-PrEP providers will monitor for these issues as
needed. PrEP CANNOT cause HIV. 

intervention and a population-based intervention," says
Sarah Schmalzle, MD, assistant professor of medicine at
the University of Maryland School of Medicine's Institute of
Human Virology and medical director of UM CID. "For each
case we prevent, we prevent all those down-the-line cases
that could also be transmitted from that first person."

14  MARYLAND'S HEALTH MATTERS

LEARN MORE
For more information about PrEP at the University of
Maryland Center for Infectious Diseases, call the center's
prevention hotline at 443-386-1746.



Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Maryland’s Health Matters - Midtown - Spring 2018

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