Move over PrEP, now there’s doxy-PEP, a sort of morning after pill that instead of preventing pregnancy, prevents you from getting an STI after unprotected sex.
Back in late October when the San Francisco Department of Public Health ended the MPX (monkeypox) pubic emergency declaration, there was a very curious footnote in their announcement. “SFDPH also encourages people to be generally proactive about sexual health screenings,” the DPH said in their announcement. “New tools to prevent disease, such as doxycycline post-exposure prophylaxis (doxy-PEP), should also be considered when appropriate.”
And on that very same day, the SFDPH put out a separate announcement about this doxy-PEP business. That announcement heralded a recent clinical trial, a collaboration between SFDPH, Zuckerberg SF General, UCSF, and the University of Washington, where people took doxy-PEP (whose technical name is doxycycline) within 72 hours of having sex.
“The study showed that this regimen significantly reduced acquisition of chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis,” according the SFDPH.
Yes, we may have a morning after pill that prevents sexually transmitted infections. And KPIX is calling it a “possible game-changer in [the] fight against sexually-transmitted infections.”
"The use of doxy-PEP as a new prevention strategy is really game-changing in the way that we can control new incidents of STI in our community," SF AIDS Foundation CEO Dr. Tyler TerMeer told KPIX.
The doxy-PEP pill is available now, but this does not mean you should just go fuck anything that moves on New Year’s Eve and then just figure you can get the pill three days later. For starters, only 30 people participated in the clinical trial. Moreover, the trial was limited to, in the SFDPH’s words. “men who have sex with men (MSM) and transgender women (TGW) who were living with HIV (PLWH) or taking HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis (HIV PrEP).” So that’s not everyone.
Plus, there’s not yet ample evidence doxy-PEP works for vaginal sex. “At this time, there is insufficient evidence to recommend doxy-PEP for STI prevention for individuals who report receptive vaginal sex,” the SFDPH says. But that clinical trial is underway in Kenya, so fingers crossed.
But for men who have sex with men and transgender women, the proof is there. According to KPIX, “Researchers found that, if someone was already taking HIV PrEP, this medication reduced syphilis by 87%, chlamydia by 88% and gonorrhea by 55%. For people living with HIV, doxy-PEP reduced syphilis by 77%, chlamydia by 74%, and gonorrhea by 57%.”
And you can currently get doxy-PEP from the SF AIDS Foundation. “If you’re a client at SFAF’s Magnet clinic and have an appointment with a nurse, ask your nurse for a prescription,” the foundation says. “Doxy PEP is not expensive. If you have insurance, you may have a copay when you pick the medication up from the pharmacy. If you are uninsured, and receive Doxy PEP from Magnet, we may be able to provide you with free medication.”
Image: Markus Spiske via Unsplash