There are three tools we have to proactively prevent HIV transmission: condoms (and lube), PrEP and U=U. This is sometimes called combination prevention – the three tools all work together, and all help us get closer to ending new transmissions altogether in Aotearoa. The key is deciding which prevention choice, or choices, work best for you.
Condoms and lube are the cheapest and most accessible tools to prevent transmission of both HIV and other STIs. It’s also very easy to tell if one is present during sex, allowing both parties to have a good time without worrying about HIV.
PrEP is a pill that’s most effective when taken daily. PrEP is super effective at preventing HIV acquisition, meaning it stops HIV from being able to take hold in your body if you come into contact with it. PrEP is a great option for those who struggle with consistent condom-use with casual partners, and is getting more and more accessible in New Zealand. It doesn’t prevent the transmission of any other STIs though – so keep in mind that you may still want to keep condoms in the mix with casual partners.
U=U is a simple way of expressing some very important – but a little complicated – science. Undetectable = Untransmittable (U=U), is a very easy way of explaining that people living with HIV who are on effective treatment cannot transmit HIV through sex – even without condoms. U=U is very effective at preventing HIV transmission but does not prevent any other STIs – so, again, keep condoms in mind with casual partners.
If everyone in our community finds a prevention tool that works for them and sticks to it – we can all end new transmission together.
What about PEP?
PEP is more of a “break glass in case of emergency” option. It can be very effective at preventing HIV acquisition, but we recommend having one of the tools above as your go-to. Keep PEP in mind as a backup for emergencies in situations you weren’t expecting or prepared for.