In the field of HIV prevention, PrEP is an abbreviation of pre-exposure prophylaxis. This is a very generic term. Are any diseases other than HIV prevented using a similar approach? Do they use the same name?


Prophylaxis is typically prior to exposure. Condoms, for example, were historically referred to as prophylactics, in that they prevent pregnancy and many STIs. The reason the pre-exposure bit is given special attention in this context is that it refers to use of drugs with substantial risk of harm. Because of their associated risk, these drugs were previously only used for post exposure prophylaxis. Similar to rabies vaccination after an animal bite, this strategy involves preventative treatment given after exposure but before a critical point in the progress of an infection.

To more directly answer your questions

Are any diseases other than HIV prevented using pre-exposure prophylaxis?

Many, many, many diseases. Vaccines are a good example of prophylactic treatment, typically given prior to exposure. Malaria prophylaxis is another example, where a medication (with non insignificant risk of harm) is given to healthy people traveling to an endemic area.

Do they use a different term?

In most cases, as you can see by searching for the words used in the linked references, the term is simply prophylaxis, rather than pre-exposure prophylaxis.

  • $\begingroup$ Yes, I'd wondered about the semantics. I assume vaccines aren't classed as PrEP because of the different mechanism by which they work? $\endgroup$ – ChrisW Jan 13 '20 at 18:10
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    $\begingroup$ @ChrisW vaccines are treatment prior to exposure, intended to prevent infection. And so they are pre exposure prophylaxis*, but they are typically just referred to as prophylaxis. The special terminology for HIV PrEP is, as I indicated, to distinguish use of ARV prior to exposure from use of ARV post exposure, which has been done for about 25 years. $\endgroup$ – De Novo Jan 13 '20 at 18:13
  • $\begingroup$ Sorry, I meant the difference in that vaccines are typically an injection of the virus, (immune response) rather than a continual drug to prevent the disease if you come into contact with it (pharmacological response) - I hadn't realised that both were technically PrEP. $\endgroup$ – ChrisW Jan 13 '20 at 18:16
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    $\begingroup$ @ChrisW condoms are technically pre-exposure prophylaxis as well. $\endgroup$ – De Novo Jan 13 '20 at 18:18

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