“My boyfriend told me he was HIV positive. What now?”. This is the question asked by Carla (pseudonym), 40, who does not have the virus. Worried and seeking advice, she went to the headquarters of the Center for Disease Control infectious and contagious diseases (Rua Silva Jardim, 94) about a month ago She was started on pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), a treatment that prevents HIV infection – just take one pill a day .
“I was welcomed by the whole team, my doubts were clarified, I did all the exams and started the treatment. It is very important to maintain a healthy and peaceful relationship. I take one pill a day before I go to work,” explains Carla.
It also highlights the ease of everything happening in one place: conference on treatment, reception, advice, collection of examinations, consultations and withdrawal of medication.
Since February 2018, when PrEP began to be offered by the Ministry of Health in some cities, Santos has served 120 people in the nine municipalities of Baixada Santista. The service could serve even more people, as it has the capacity to do so, but outreach to people in the target audience proposed by the Ministry of Health remains a major challenge.
Serodiscordant couples (Carla’s case), transsexuals, transvestites, men who have sex with men and sex workers can use PrEP.
“The use of condoms and post-exposure prophylaxis (taking medication after contact with the HIV virus) means that many do not feel vulnerable to start preventive treatment”, laments Joseli Cardoso, head of the specialized care section. to adults from the health department.
In Santos there is greater resistance among transvestites, although an active search is made in places where they are usually found. “They have knowledge, they think it’s cool, but they feel it’s not for them,” he adds. Most of those using PrEP in the Municipality service are men and young adults, up to 35 years old.
What is PrEP
PrEP combines two drugs (tenofovir + emtricitabine) that prevent HIV from establishing itself and spreading in the body. The drug begins to work after seven days of use for anal intercourse and 20 days of use for vaginal intercourse.
“In our perception, there is good adherence to treatment. Most follow it correctly: they take medication once a day, attend quarterly appointments (maximum spacing time), undergo examinations every three months to identify STIs and possible side effects of medication, especially on kidney function. Changes in the kidneys are not common, but we are monitoring them, ”underlines infectious disease specialist Tiago Vitor Maria.
It should be remembered that PrEP only prevents HIV infection, so it is essential to use a condom to avoid being infected with other diseases. “What we’ve noticed is that those who use PrEP, even with frequent counseling on the unit, begin to think better about self-care and change their habits,” says Joseli.
Where treatment is available
Any resident of Santos can contact the Specialized Care Service for Adults/Children, Rua da Constitution, 556 (Vila Mathias), Monday to Thursday, from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Residents of other towns in the Baixada Santista should contact the health department of their municipality.
The Center for Infectious and Contagious Disease Control team is available to give lectures and answer questions in NGOs, groups and companies. Contacts are [email protected]; [email protected] e (13) 99714-0705.