Prevention of HIV/AIDS

There is no vaccine for HIV and the only way to prevent infection is to avoid activities and behaviors that are known to transmit the virus.

In July 2012, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved emtricitabine/tenofovir disoproxil fumarate (Truvada) to help reduce infections in high-risk adults who are HIV-negative—called pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP). Truvada, the first medication approved for this use, is a combination of two antiretroviral medications and is also used to treat HIV/AIDS.

To reduce HIV risk, Truvada must be taken once daily and should be used in addition to other HIV prevention measures (e.g., condoms, regular HIV testing, drug treatment programs). People who are taking this medication to prevent infection with HIV should see their health care provider for follow-up care every 3 months. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), PrEP can reduce the risk of HIV by as much as 92 percent when used as directed, and it's important to increase awareness about this important option.

The FDA approval includes a Risk Evaluation and Mitigation Strategy (REMS) designed to inform doctors who prescribe the medication and potential users of the drug about the importance of taking Truvada every day and about the importance of regular HIV testing and additional steps to reduce the risk of HIV infection. If you are at high risk for HIV (e.g., have a sexual partner who is infected with the virus) and are HIV-negative, talk to your doctor about the benefits and drawbacks of Truvada.

To prevent HIV infection after a single high-risk event of possible exposure to the virus (e.g., unprotected sex, sexual assault, needle sharing), postexposure prophylaxis (PEP) is an option. PEP must be started within 72 hours of potential HIV exposure. Treatment involves 2 or 3 antiretroviral drugs taken for 28 days.

Publication Review By: Stanley J. Swierzewski, III, M.D.

Published: 30 Nov 2000

Last Modified: 08 Dec 2015