In order to effectively prevent yourself from contracting HIV you need to understand the ways you are at risk of contracting the virus. If you are sexually active the best way to reduce your risk of contracting HIV is through consistent and correct condom use. Similarly, it is recommended that injection drug users use new needles to decrease the risk of contracting HIV.
HIV Edmonton champions a harm reduction approach to HIV prevention.
Condoms remain one of the most effective ways to prevent the sexual transmission of HIV and other STIs. When used consistently and correctly they can reduce the risk of HIV transmission by 90% or more. HIV Edmonton provides free condoms and lube for community groups and people who have trouble accessing them. For a better understanding of how condoms prevent HIV and other STIs check out the following link: http://www.catie.ca/en/fact-sheets/prevention/condoms
Post-exposure prophylaxis, or PEP, is a way for a person who may have recently been exposed to HIV to prevent HIV infection. PEP involves going on a 28 day regimen of HIV medication after a potential HIV exposure in order to prevent infection. It should be started as soon as possible and no later than 72 hours after a potential HIV exposure. PEP is not 100% effective, can be quite expensive, and many individuals who use it experience unwanted side effects. If you think you’ve been exposed to HIV and are interested in obtaining PEP, contact your doctor or visit a hospital emergency room. For more information check out the following link:
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Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) is the use of HIV medication by someone who is HIV-negative, in advance of a potential exposure to HIV, with the aim of preventing HIV infection. When taken daily, PrEP can significantly decrease the likelihood of an HIV infection occurring.
In February 2016, Health Canada approved the daily use of the drug Truvada as PrEP, in combination with safer sex practices, to reduce the risk of sexual HIV transmission for people at high risk of HIV infection. This approval was a necessary step towards increasing access to PrEP in Canada. However, for PrEP to have an impact on preventing new HIV infections, it needs to be available. The medication most commonly used as PrEP is emtricitabine/tenofovir disoproxil fumarate (TDF/FTC). Originally manufactured by Gilead Sciences under the brand name Truvada, Health Canada has recently approved several generic versions of TDF/FTC as well.
PrEP is covered by some forms of insurance by some providers in some provinces, however we are activley advocating to see that those that are a realistic risk of contracting HIV have access to PrEP. In Alberta there are discussions happening, however, currently it can still be difficult to access.
Treatment as prevention is a way for an HIV positive person to reduce the risk of transmission to a HIV negative person.
Antiretroviral treatment can dramatically improve the long term health of someone living with HIV. It can also reduce the risk of HIV transmission. Therefore, efforts to increase the number of HIV positive people who are on treatment may, as a secondary benefit to improving health, help curb the number of new HIV infections. The idea that treatment works to prevent HIV transmission at the population level and have an impact on the HIV epidemic is commonly referred to as “treatment as prevention”.
This concept has led to the campaign U=U – Undetectable equals Untransmittable- This confirms that when a person living with HIV is on effective treatment, it will reduce the level of HIV to “undetectable” levels which protects their health and makes them incapable of transmitting HIV to their sexual partners, or what we call “Undetectable = Untransmittable: U=U”. As a prevention strategy, we call it “Treatment as Prevention”. As a campaign to end stigma, we call it genius.
HIV Edmonton signed on and endorses the Prevention Access Campaign Consensus statement–
When people share needles and other drug use equipment, there is a risk that both HIV and Hepatitis C could be transmitted through blood to blood contact. If you do inject drugs, make sure you use a new syringe and needle every time. Also make sure you only use your own drug equipment and don’t share with others. If you need to access new needles, HIV Edmonton provides new needle handouts (free of charge) among other harm reduction supplies at our office. For more information about receiving harm reduction supplies and to access additional services you can contact Streetworks at 780-424-4106 or visit their website: