Stop the stigma. Get the facts.
What is PrEP?
Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) is a pill that is taken once a day to lower the risk of getting HIV. PrEP is used by HIV-negative individuals who are at substantial risk of acquiring HIV through sex or injection drug use. PrEP works by blocking the virus from making copies of itself and spreading throughout the body if there is an exposure.
PrEP is available by prescription only. There are 2 oral medications approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Your personal situation will determine which medication is best for you.
- Truvada is a 2-drug combination pill consisting of emtricitabine (FTC) and tenofovir disoproxil fumarate (TDF). It is appropriate for both cisgender and transgender males and females as well as people who inject drugs.
- Descovy is a 2-drug combination pill consisting of emtricitabine (FTC) and tenofovir alafenamide fumarate (TAF). It is appropriate for only cisgender males and transgender females.
It takes time to build up protective levels of PrEP in the blood and other tissues (e.g., anal and vaginal tissues). Other prevention methods, such as condoms, should be used after starting PrEP for at least 7 days for anal sex and at least 21 days for vaginal sex and injection drug use.
The effectiveness of PrEP is strongly linked with adherence (i.e., taking PrEP as prescribed). PrEP is highly effective when taken regularly—it reduces the risk of getting HIV from sex by at least 90% and from injection drug use by at least 70%. The level of protection decreases when daily doses are missed, therefore, there may not be enough medicine in your body to block HIV from replicating and spreading through your body. Using condoms in addition to PrEP further reduces your risk of acquiring HIV.
Is PrEP right for you?
Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) is a safe, convenient, and effective method of preventing HIV. PrEP may be right for you if:
- You are HIV negative
- You are an adolescent or adult
- At least 1 of the following apply to you:
- Have anal and/or vaginal sex with an individual living with HIV
- Do not use condoms all the time
- Have anal and/or vaginal sex with multiple partners
- Have been diagnosed with a sexually transmitted infection (STI)
- Inject illegal/prescription drugs and share needles, syringes, or other injection equipment
- Have sex with a partner who injects drugs and/or shares injection equipment
- Have taken post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) to prevent HIV in the past year
If PrEP appears to be a good HIV prevention option for you, please contact us to talk with our registered nurse. You can also find a PrEP healthcare provider through the HIV Testing Sites and Care Services Locator.
What should you expect if you decide to take PrEP?
Before you start pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), you will need to take an HIV test to verify your HIV status. Your healthcare provider may also recommend tests for sexually transmitted infections (STI), kidney function, and hepatitis. Other laboratory tests may be ordered based on your individual situation.
Once you start PrEP, you will need to take PrEP every day to keep the drug levels consistently high in your body. Additionally, you will have follow-up visits with HIV and STI testing at least every 3 months.
Most people tolerate PrEP well; however, some people may experience mild side effects the first few weeks after starting PrEP, such as headache, fatigue, nausea, and diarrhea. These symptoms tend to be short term and typically go away in a few weeks after initiating therapy.
It is important to talk with your PrEP healthcare provider if you decide to discontinue PrEP. Your provider will discuss the safest way to stop PrEP, as most providers recommend continuing PrEP for a certain period of time after your most recent sexual exposure.
How do you pay for PrEP?
Most health insurance plans cover the cost of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP). Check with your health insurance company to confirm which PrEP services are covered (e.g., cost of medication, laboratory tests, clinic visits). If your insurance plan has a prescription co-pay and you cannot afford the co-pay, you may qualify for co-pay assistance through Gilead’s Advancing Access.
If you do not have health insurance, we can assist you with enrolling in Gilead’s Advancing Access Patient Assistance Program. Another alternative is the Ready, Set, PrEP program—a program that provides access to PrEP medications for free to qualifying individuals.
What doesn’t PrEP protect against?
Taking pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) does not mean:
- You are protected against sexually transmitted infections (STI). Although condoms are not required for PrEP to be effective, condoms do provide protection against other STI, such as syphilis, gonorrhea, chlamydia, and hepatitis.
- You are protected against pregnancy. There are numerous types of contraception available to prevent pregnancy.
- You are on effective HIV treatment if you get HIV. PrEP alone is not a treatment for HIV and taking PrEP when you have HIV can actually make the virus harder to treat.