Everyone needs that sense of security in sexual health, whoever your sexual partner is. Reducing your vulnerability to sexually transmitted infections (STIs), especially with HIV, has always been a responsibility to yourself. You can better protect yourself against HIV with the new prevention method called the Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP).

We have seen the rise of HIV cases at an exponential rate over the years. These cases usually come with images of fear and death narratives. But now, we can all be witness to a new era, wherein we can enjoy our lives to the fullest. More than that, we are able to show off our love for ourselves – a necessity to be cherished, and with new advancements available, such worries could be addressed more proactively. The time is ripe for us to change and shape our own narratives.

Pre-Exposure What Now?

Now you are asking yourself, what is PrEP? From its etymology: “Pre” or prior to; Exposure or being in contact with something e.g., HIV; and Prophylaxis or an action initiated to prevent an infection. This means that PrEP is an action taken prior to being in contact with HIV to prevent an infection.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), PrEP can help your body prevent HIV infection by more than 90% if taken daily. By taking it, you have another layer of protection to have a safe and satisfying sex, and feel more empowered against HIV.

PrEP is highly encouraged alongside correct and consistent use of condoms and lubricants, since it only protects yourself from HIV, and not other sexually transmitted infections. To set it straight, this preventive measure is also not a cure for HIV nor  obstructs pregnancy.

PrEP is Effective!

In 2017, LoveYourself was tasked to roll-out a PrEP demonstration project called PrEP Pilipinas (PrEPPY). This project ran for two years, involving 250 men-having-sex with-men (MSM) participants, who were enrolled, and asked for their experiences and thoughts in taking the medication. This study has collected several insights that helped kick-off the implementation of this HIV prevention program in the country.

The study insights include:

  • No PrEP-related side effects, showing that PrEP is a safe and effective.
  • No significant increase in STIs during the demonstration project.
  • No seroconversions or no one from the project participants got HIV during the course of the study.

The only PrEP formulation approved by the Philippine Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is a combination of two medicines: emtricitabine or FTC tenofovir disoproxil fumarate or TDF. This formulation simply prevents HIV to replicate in the body.

The Need for PrEP

Since only this year that PrEP has been approved by the FDA, some individuals have to fly all the way to Bangkok, Thailand just to purchase their prescriptions. Cognizant of the situation, LoveYourself dared to expand this exciting project throughout the country for an additional option for Filipinos to prevent HIV. This is part and parcel of the organization’s continuing commitment to take care of its community by offering health technologies that are proven to be effective.

More than that, the HIV and AIDS Registry of the Philippines (HARP) reported 1,006 new cases of HIV infection in June 2019 alone. Majority or fifty-nine percent (589) of which were reported to be due to  male to male sex, and 26% (260) through sex with both males and females. This is not only true for the Philippines, because similar trends are happening in China, Indonesia, Malaysia and Pakistan.

In meeting on HIV self-testing and PrEP in Asia late last year, UNAIDS Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific Eamonn Murphy called for new ways of doing business in order to prevent HIV on MSM, and PrEP is a viable option to address the unmet needs and provide more options for key affected populations to HIV.

Murphy said, “We need to scale up PrEP as an additional effective HIV prevention intervention.”

In LoveYourself, the PrEPPY services were initially offered in our community center in Mandaluyong City – the LoveYourself Anglo. PrEPPY services is now available to more community centers, namely: Victoria by LoveYourself in Pasay City, and LoveYourself White House in Cebu City. Very soon, it will be offered in LoveYourself Welcome in Manila, Lily by LoveYourself in Parañaque City, and Hero by LoveYourself in Bacoor, Cavite.

Basic PrEPPY services can also be availed in all Hi-Precision Diagnostics around the country, and MediPrime clinic in Cainta, Rizal. To avail of the PrEPPY service, just visitgo.loveyourself.ph/PrEPPY.

Text by Jayson Celeste