shutterstock_332336108_XsMveUy.jpeg (shutterstock_332336108.webp)

If you’re part of the LGBTQ+ community, you've likely come across PrEP pre-exposure prevention and its potential to decrease the risk of HIV infection by 99%. But have you delved into the history behind achieving this 99% protection? It's a relatively recent story worth exploring, along with the nitty-gritty details of daily PrEP usage.

All the kids have headed back to school, but at PrEP2Me, we think it’s time for a history lesson of our own. Here’s a brief introduction to how the HIV/AIDS epidemic led to the development and success of PrEP:

1983: AIDS is Identified in France

The AIDS epidemic, initially affecting gay men in major city hubs like New York and California around 1981, was initially perceived as isolated cases of rare cancers and infections in this community. Eventually, the correlation between these cases became undeniable, leading scientists to attribute them to a single infectious disease. This highlights the importance of discussions about safe sexual practices, pre-exposure prophylaxis PrEP, and HIV-negative status in the context of this epidemic.

Researchers initially believed the disease to be unique to gay individuals and caused by gay sexual activity. However, when individuals frequently in contact with others' blood, including hemophiliacs and drug users, exhibited similar symptoms, it became evident that this was not the case. In 1983, researchers at the Pasteur Institute in France identified the exact virus (Human Immunodeficiency Virus, or HIV) causing these symptoms, formally identifying the disease as AIDS. Preventing HIV, PrEP medications, and anal or vaginal sex should all be part of the discussion.

1987: AZT is Approved to Treat AIDS

The first HIV test was conducted in 1964 to assess the effectiveness of azidothymidine (AZT) in treating AIDS. Initially developed as an experimental injection drug for cancer, AZT was later prescribed to suppress HIV replication without significant harm to normal cells. Clinical trials were successful, leading to its FDA approval in 1987. This innovation transformed AIDS from a fatal condition to a manageable chronic illness. Additionally, it paved the way for the development of other drugs, including injection drug use for managing HIV/AIDS.

2012: PrEP is FDA Approved

Even with treatment available for those infected with HIV or those with AIDS, the gay community faced the daunting prospect of unprotected sex without any approved HIV prevention medicine or method. Condom use, while not 100% effective, was necessary to reduce the risk of getting HIV, which caused anxiety for many. It took nearly 30 years after the first antiretroviral AIDS treatment approval for the FDA to approve the first form of oral PrEP medication under the brand name Truvada. Two years later, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) officially recommended taking PrEP for high-risk groups, including gay and trans people. In October of that year, the FDA approved a second form of PrEP medication called Descovy.

2016: Undetectable = Untransmittable

In July 2016, a groundbreaking consensus statement was published by the top HIV/AIDS researchers in the world stating that if a patient’s viral load (the amount of HIV present in the body) is undetectable for at least six months, they cannot transmit the virus to others. The Undetectable = Untransmittable (or U=U) consensus has been a massive step toward ending both the epidemic itself and the stigma against HIV-positive individuals. That said, the need for PrEP remains vital to the fight against HIV/AIDS -- when people are practicing prevention and receiving treatment, the number of people who can potentially transmit the virus becomes lower and lower. Health insurance plays a crucial role in ensuring access to PrEP for individuals who want to protect their sexual partners. It's essential to explore health insurance plans that cover PrEP to support the ongoing battle against HIV/AIDS.

Even with the incredible innovations and life-changing science involved in fighting HIV/AIDS, certain obstacles remain in place that prevent many high-risk individuals from receiving the preventative care they need. At PrEP2Me, we’re interested in smashing those barriers and allowing you to receive your PrEP prescription online anywhere in the country. We can also help you get the meds you need regardless of your insurance situation, ensuring that anyone who needs PrEP can get it.

The culturally competent clinic at Central Outreach Wellness Center(opens in a new tab) has been treating, testing, and supporting patients with and at risk for HIV/AIDS for decades. If you’re in Western Pennsylvania or Ohio and need to be tested, visit our practice today.