The student news site of Houston Community College

The Egalitarian

The student news site of Houston Community College

The Egalitarian

The student news site of Houston Community College

The Egalitarian

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1960s-era pill could bring ‘free love’ back to Houston

Doxy PEP cut syphilis, chlamydia and gonorrhea risk in half: studies

Of all the emotions Antonio Garza could have felt about having gonorrhea, “amusement” was his unorthodox choice. 

“There was an air of inevitability,” Garza explained.

The 29-year-old restaurant server, whose name was changed to protect his identity, said he’d often turn drunken games of “Never Have I Ever” in Montrose into an opportunity to rag on his friends.

In the game, players share simple statements of things they’ve never done. 

“I’d say, ‘Never have I ever had an STD,’” Garza recalled. “And every time, everyone would have to put a finger down but me.”

After surviving a few scares of his own, Garza considered himself lucky.

Then, a one-night stand in May sidelined this bisexual Don Juan just in time for Pride.

“I’ve tasted my own medicine,” he laughed, blaming his habitual episodes of schadenfreude for his sudden turn of fortune.

Too bad he wasn’t aware of a more potent medicine gaining ground.

What is doxy PEP?

“I’m very excited about it,” said Jeffrey Campbell, CEO of Houston HIV-prevention organization Allies in Hope. “Doxy PEP is another tool in our prevention toolbox.”

On June 6, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended doxycycline post-exposure prophylaxis to protect patients against bacterial sexually-transmitted diseases.  

Campbell said within 72 hours of possible exposure, a 200-milligram dose of the antibiotic could slash your infection risk by half.

Data from four studies shows syphilis and chlamydia infections dropping by as much as 70 percent after taking doxy PEP, and gonorrhea by 50 percent.

Doxy PEP does not protect against herpes, which has no known cure.

While the CDC said doxy PEP represents the first new STD prevention tool in decades, doxycycline has been around for decades.

The antibiotic has been used to treat various maladies since the 1960s, from respiratory infections and cholera, to rosacea and severe acne.

Campbell said the STI-fighting power of doxy PEP couldn’t come at a better time, especially when used in conjunction with PrEP, medicines which prevent HIV.

“An STI is a gateway to an HIV diagnosis,” Campbell said. “Getting doxy PEP treatment, making sure that the body is healthy, and if there is potentially, you know, HIV somewhere in the system, your body is more able to fight that off.”

What’s more, doxy PEP may be available for free or low cost to eligible patients, like PrEP before it.

No Glove, No Love; No Pills, No Thrills.

The CDC focused its recommendation on gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men and transgender women, who experienced an STI in the last 12 months.

But Campbell said anyone who is sexually active should consider the pills, especially if their status or the statuses of their sex partners are not known.

Allies in Hope has been prescribing doxy PEP since last fall, with a focus on educating PrEP users about the additional benefits. 

“Most people who are on PrEP, because there’s that protection from becoming HIV positive, there’s condomless sex,” Campbell said. “But, with condomless sex is the vulnerability to syphilis, gonorrhea and chlamydia, and so, having doxy PEP in our toolbox, I think, helps reduce that likelihood.”

Regardless of the efficacy of both medications, Campbell said he still suggests condoms as an additional barrier to infection.

For information about free HIV/STD testing and other health services, visit Allies in Hope’s website

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