There are currently three proven methods for preventing HIV transmission using anti-HIV drugs. These are:
All three methods rely on approved antiretroviral drugs taken either by HIV-negative people to stay HIV-negative (PrEP and PEP) or by people living with HIV to prevent transmission to others (TasP).
Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) is an HIV prevention strategy that enables HIV-negative people to stay HIV-negative by taking anti-HIV drugs (also called antiretrovirals, or "ARVs") before they are exposed to HIV.
In 2012, the FDA approved a pill called Truvada for daily use as PrEP. Another PrEP pill called Descovy was approved in 2019. Talk to your doctor to find out if PrEP may be right for you.
New methods to deliver PrEP over longer periods are also being studied. These methods could release anti-HIV drugs into the body over a period of several months to prevent HIV. Two methods under study include:
Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP), on the other hand, is a prevention technique that uses a short-term regimen of ARV pills after exposure to HIV.
Treatment as Prevention (TasP) refers to the use of anti-HIV drugs by someone who has HIV to stay healthy and to reduce the chance of transmitting HIV to others through sex, needle sharing, or during pregnancy and birth.
TasP works by decreasing the amount of HIV in the body. This makes a person’s blood, vaginal fluid, breast milk, and semen less likely to pass HIV to others. When people living with HIV reduce the amount of virus in the body to "undetectable" levels (known as "viral suppression"), the chance of transmitting HIV to others through sex is reduced to zero--even sex without condoms or PrEP.
TasP usually consists of three anti-HIV drugs taken daily as part of the drug regimen that keeps people living with HIV healthy.
The consistent and correct use of anti-HIV drugs to maintain decreased HIV in the body includes:
People who start treatment soon after becoming HIV-positive will have improved health outcomes and live longer than those who start treatment later.
"PrEP, microbicides, and all these different acronyms and multisyllabic words that we have can be a little daunting, but you lower those barriers to the language, and then they realize that they know more about it than they even thought."