The global fight against HIV is focusing on concepts of expanding testing programmes and Treatment as Prevention to combat the spread of this incurable disease. Despite widespread knowledge of how to prevent acquisition of HIV there were 512 new diagnoses of HIV in Ireland in 2016. This is a 6% increase on 2016 numbers, and demonstrates a 60% increase over the last 5 years.
In 2016, two-thirds of new diagnoses (of known transmission route) were in the male or transgender person who has sex with men category. This is a marked increase on recent years, with data from 2014 and 2015 reporting approximately half of HIV diagnoses in this category. The use of antiretroviral therapy by at risk populations as pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) is one of the tools that can help to prevent HIV transmission.
Pre-exposure prophylaxis means prevention before exposure. PrEP for HIV involves HIV negative people taking antiretroviral drugs before sex to reduce the risk of acquiring HIV. Currently approved PrEP is composed of the antiretroviral medications tenofovir disoproxil fumarate (TDF) and emtricitabine, combined in a single pill called Truvada™, on an ongoing basis before sex. It does not protect a person from STI’s. Other precautions (condoms) need to be taken to prevent STI’s.
PrEP is a highly effective way for HIV-negative people to prevent acquiring HIV by taking a daily pill. PrEP is recommended as a prevention option for people at substantial risk of HIV acquisition by the World Health Organization, the US Centers for Disease Control and UNAIDS.