The Miriam Hospital has become one of the first in the country to offer a new drug regimen that helps prevent HIV in people who’ve never been exposed to it. But the therapy does carry some risk.
There’s already a drug regimen for those who have recently been exposed to HIV through unprotected sex or, say, an accidental needle prick. But a year and a half ago, the FDA approved a new drug therapy to prevent HIV in people before they’re ever exposed to the virus. It’s called PREP, and Miriam Hospital is one of the first in the nation to offer the drug. Miriam’s infectious disease specialist Dr. Phillip Chan says it’s very effective – although not 100 percent.
“It’s best to think about PREP as one part of a multi-faceted approach to preventing HIV," said Chan. "Certainly one of the cornerstones of preventing HIV is just being tested.”
The drug is called Truvada and it must be taken every day. Chan says one long-term side effect can be kidney problems, but he monitors patients with a blood test every three months. Chan says Miriam will discuss PREP with patients who come to their free sexually transmitted disease testing clinic. He also says the medication is covered by most insurance companies and available for free to those who have no insurance and can’t afford it.