A Review of HIV Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis: The Female Perspective

Infect Dis Ther. 2017 Sep;6(3):363-382. doi: 10.1007/s40121-017-0159-9. Epub 2017 Jun 9.


When taken consistently, pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) against human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) with once daily tenofovir disoproxil fumarate-emtricitabine (TDF-FTC) has been shown to safely reduce the incidence of HIV infection in high-risk individuals by more than 90%. Yet, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there were about 2.1 million new cases of HIV reported worldwide in 2015. Undoubtedly, there is significant room for improvement to prevent the transmission of HIV. Research to date has been heavily focused on the high-risk men who have sex with men (MSM) population, yet, many women worldwide remain at high risk of HIV transmission. PrEP offers women a protection method that is discrete, does not require partner consent, and may be compatible with both contraception or conception as desired. However, women often remain under-represented in HIV prevention literature and are reported to have lower real-world uptake in comparison to men. Furthermore, clinical trials that do focus on the female population demonstrate mixed efficacy results that highlight the adherence challenges in this population. It is essential to identify factors that contribute to PrEP non-adherence as well as barriers to preventative treatment. This review will discuss the clinical evidence behind PrEP in women, current barriers to use afflicting this population, pharmacotherapy considerations for the female patient, alternative and future agents, and the current real-world application of PrEP.

Keywords: HIV prevention; Human immunodeficiency virus; PrEP; Pre-exposure prophylaxis; Women.

Publication types

  • Review