PrEP is the new kid on the block when it comes to HIV prevention methods, and because it is new & unfamiliar it makes sense that you’d have a bunch of questions about how to really get the most out of it. Similar to a working-week morning routine (wake up, feed the dog, go for a run, shower/ shave, hop on the train, re-download Grindr), PrEP requires diligence.
To start, you only get the full level of protection from HIV after taking the drug for a 7-day period and continuing to take the daily dose as prescribed, so committing to it is important. Protection from STIs however does not come as part of the package.
So what’s the first step to preventing STIs? Starting from zero, making sure you don’t have an STI is the best way to ensure you’re not passing on an STI to someone else. How do you do that? Get tested.
Add testing to your ‘to-do list’
When Uncle Ben from Spiderman said ‘with great power comes great responsibility’ he probably wasn’t referring to getting laid. However the saying also applies to committing to your PrEP regiment and getting regular HIV and STI tests. Doing this can be done either at your local GP, sexual health clinic or a community based testing service like a[TEST]. You can find the closest site to you through our ‘find a test’ tool.
So how regularly should I test?
That depends on a number of different factors. If you are currently participating or about to get started in the EPIC-NSW PrEP study, the intervals which you need to return for a full suite of HIV and STI tests should have been outlined to you by the health care professional during intake. If you are organising your own access to PrEP, the consensus on frequency of testing is a minimum of 2 times a year. If you are likely to have more than 10 partners within a six month period, you should up your testing to four times a year. Check out our ‘How Often To Test’ calculator to see where you fit on the spectrum.
Reduce your risk even further and wear a condom
While testing might be a ‘corner piece’ of the PrEP puzzle, condoms surely have a similar part to play. Condoms can greatly reduce the risk of STI transmission and can work great in conjunction with PrEP.
While it may seem obvious to some, it’s important you know the correct way to put a condom on, as this step is crucial to the efficacy of the condom itself. From time to time, STIs will slip through the cracks, which is why having a regular testing schedule is the way to go.
Still not sure? Talk about it!
Discussing risk with your partner may not be the most ‘arousing’ line of discussion when in the bedroom, but understanding where you and your partner sits within testing, PrEP and condom use can take a lot of the fear and uncertainty out of the equation. If you know where you stand with your HIV status, and the status of your partner, including whether or not you or him will be using PrEP and/or condoms you can safely navigate risk, and have the happy, healthy sex you deserve.
Those are some words you would never have heard Healthy Harold say, so let me say them for him: Talk about it!
If you aren’t already, go get tested and enjoy the security that regular testing and PrEP can give you! Whether you are using PrEP, condoms or both – test regularly and stay safe.