Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) damages white blood cells (CD4+ or T cells) that are very important and help the body fight infection and disease. As the disease progresses, people have fewer of these cells in their blood and the immune system becomes weak and damaged. When this happens, HIV can lead to AIDS, or acquired immunodeficiency syndrome.
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Protecting Yourself against HIV
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The most effective methods of protecting yourself against exposure to HIV include sexual abstinence, consistent and correct condom use, abstinence from injection drug use, and use of sterile equipment if using injection drugs.
For Daily Prevention: Pre-exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP)
People who are at high risk of getting HIV but do not have HIV can take pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) daily medicines that can significantly lower the chances of getting HIV. PrEP can help keep the virus from establishing a permanent infection when someone is exposed to HIV. PrEP is less effective if it is not taken consistently but, even if some doses are missed, PrEP will still offer significant protection from contracting HIV. People who use PrEP must commit to taking the drug every day and seeing their healthcare provider for follow-up every three months. Talk to your healthcare provider to see if PrEP is right for you. PrEP should be used with other strategies to protect your health, including condoms.
For Emergency Prevention: Post-exposure Prophylaxis (PEP)
Post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) may be used after being potentially exposed to HIV, to prevent becoming infected. It is only for emergency situations after a single, high-risk event (such as unprotected sex with someone who has HIV or injection drug use). Antiretroviral drugs must be started as soon as possible to be effective-and always within 72 hours of a possible exposure. If you think you have recently been exposed to HIV during sex, through sharing needles or works to prepare drugs, or if you have been sexually assaulted, talk to your healthcare provider or an emergency room doctor about PEP right away.
More Information about HIV Prevention
- Family Planning Provider PrEP Toolkit (University of California San Francisco): tools and resources about PrEP services in family planning settings
- Title X Family Planning Clinic Locator (Office of Population Affairs): information about clinics that offer a broad range of family planning and preventive health services, including HIV testing, condoms, and PrEP services
- Ready, Set, PrEP (HHS Office of Infectious Disease and HIV/AIDS Policy): nationwide program that provides free PrEP medications to people who do not have insurance that covers prescriptions
- Let's Stop HIV Together – HIV Prevention (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention): information about HIV testing, condoms, and PrEP as well as HIV treatment
Increasing Access to PrEP Services in Family Planning Clinics
The Decision-Making Guide for the Provision of PrEP Services in Title X-Funded Sites - PDF is a new resource to help Title X family planning service sites make evidence-informed decisions about their role in assuring access to PrEP for HIV prevention services in their communities. The guide describes the key decision-making factors for PrEP services and features an organizational checklist to help users determine which level of PrEP service provision will best serve their clients’ needs. While developed to inform PrEP decision-making in Title X-funded organizations, it may also be applicable for other settings where family planning services are offered. This one-page summary of the Decision-Making Guide - PDF provides an overview of the guide.
Increasing PrEP Awareness and Access among Women: Stories of Five Title X Funded Family Planning Sites Offering PrEP Services - PDF is a compilation of stories from Title X-funded family planning sites that serves as a companion piece to the Decision-Making Guide for the Provision of PrEP Services in Title X-Funded Sites. The five Title X family planning sites featured here share how their sites made the decision to offer PrEP services, how to prepare clinicians and staff for PrEP implementation, how to approach clients about PrEP, and other lessons learned for family planning sites considering offering PrEP services.