What You Need to Know About PrEP
PrEP or pre-exposure prophylaxis, the HIV prevention pill, has been getting more and more attention over the last year and has even been a topic of discussion in some mainstream media like TV shows such as Looking and How to Get Away with Murder.
According to the CDC, 1 in 4 gay men should take the pill that prevents HIV. With all this talk about it, you’ve probably heard about the HIV Prevention Pill and are considering if it’s right for you.
What is PrEP?
“PrEP” is short for Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis. It is a new HIV prevention method for people who are HIV-negative to use in order to decrease the risk of becoming infected if they are exposed to the HIV virus. PrEP has been approved by the FDA and is shown to be safe and effective.
Who should use PrEP?
It has also been shown to reduce the risk of HIV infection through sex for all people, but is recommended for the following groups:
- Gay and bisexual men
- Transgender women and men who are the receptive partners in anal sex (more commonly known as bottoming)
- Heterosexual men and women who are HIV negative who are in a relationship with an HIV-positive partner
- People who inject drugs.
How does it work?
PrEP involves taking the medication, Truvada, once a day, every day. The medication affects HIV’s ability to copy itself in your body after you’ve been exposed and stops it from starting an infection and making you sick.
When taken correctly and every day, PrEP is 92%-99% effective in reducing your risk for HIV.
When taken daily, PrEP takes at least 7 days to reach maximum protection for rectal tissue, and 20 days in blood or for vaginal tissues.
PrEP cannot be used as a method to protect yourself against other sexually transmitted infections or pregnancy, and it is not a cure for HIV.
What are the side effects of PrEP?
Around 1 in 10 users experience mild side effects such as nausea, headaches, weight loss, fatigue, or dizziness for the first few weeks of starting PrEP but these symptoms usually go away by themselves over time, usually 2-4 weeks.
During clinical trials, a few people had experienced a decrease in kidney function. With this side effect, there were no physical symptoms, so it’s important for you to remember to get routinely checked by your doctor while on PrEP.
There have also been some cases of slight bone density loss but the changes did not progress over time. The minor loss in bone density did not increase risk of fracture. Both side effects went away after users stopped taking PrEP.
Is Truvada the only medication you can take for PrEP?
Yes, currently Truvada is the only drug approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for PrEP. There are other anti-HIV drugs that are currently being studied for PrEP but none have been shown to be effective for PrEP nor have they been approved by the FDA.
What should I expect if I’m on PrEP?
If you decide to get on pre-exposure prophylaxis you will be required to:
- Visit your Primary Care Provider quarterly to refill meds, get checked for STDs, get an HIV test, and make sure your kidneys are ok.
- Take the pill every day.
How do I get PrEP?
There are many resources to help make sure PrEP is accessible and affordable to you.
If you are in New York City, Apicha CHC provides screenings for all of its patients to see if pre-exposure prophylaxis is the right choice for them. If they qualify, individuals are provided with a prescription and they will start taking PrEP.
There are programs that may help pay for visits if you don’t have insurance such as PrEP-AP or might help pay for the drug itself, like the PrEP Medication Assistance Program by the manufacturer of Truvada, Gilead. Also, if you don’t have insurance, Apicha CHC has staff who can help you enroll in insurance.
To become a patient and find out if you qualify for PrEP, or to inquire about Apicha CHC’s other services such as HIV testing or comprehensive medical care, you can request an appointment with us here, or click the image below!