What Should I Know About PrEP?

The Basics

In July 2012, the FDA approved a medication (Truvada®) for pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) for HIV prevention. PrEP is a prevention strategy where an HIV negative person takes a daily medication to lower their risk of HIV infection. When taken daily, PrEP may reduce the risk of HIV by 92%. Because PrEP does not protect against all STIs, other risk reduction strategies should be used, such as consistent condom usage and/or frequent HIV and STI screenings.

PrEP has been scientifically proven to be effective in lowering the risk of HIV for multiple high-risk groups, including men who have sex with men, persons who inject drugs, and high-risk heterosexuals.

PrEP is available by prescription only and is covered by most insurance plans.

The Research

PrEP has been studied extensively among multiple risk groups. All of these studies have shown that the efficacy of PrEP is dependent on adherence. PrEP is only effective if taken daily. Visit the Useful Resources page to learn more about these studies.

The Myths

  1. You can become resistance to PrEP.

    Drug resistance only develops in persons who are HIV positive. If you take PrEP and are HIV negative you cannot develop resistance to PrEP. If you become HIV positive while taking PrEP, it is possible that you could develop resistance – this is why it is important to attend all your scheduled appointments with your doctor while on PrEP. Your doctor can test you for HIV at each appointment and identify if you become HIV positive and begin treating your HIV infection. However, if taken as prescribed, the risk of HIV while on PrEP is very low.

  2. If I take PrEP, I don’t ever have to worry about HIV.

    PrEP is not 100% effective. It is highly effective (92%) if taken daily. The efficacy decreases if you do not take it daily; therefore, you should continue to engage in other risk reduction strategies and continue to be screened for HIV during routine doctor visits.

  3. I will have to take PrEP for the rest of my life.

    You do not have to take PrEP for the rest of your life. You can take it during periods when you are at risk. It is important to talk with your doctor before stopping PrEP to make certain that you are doing so in ways that protect your health.

  4. Every gay man, person who injects drugs, and/or sex worker should be on PrEP.

    PrEP is a great prevention strategy for persons at high-risk, but it may not be right for everyone. The decision to start PrEP can only be made by you and your doctor.

  5. People start PrEP because they want to stop using condoms.

    The decision to start PrEP is personal and there are many reasons that may motivate persons to start. Some people start PrEP because they have sex with multiple people and are at high-risk of HIV. Others take PrEP because they are substance users and share injection equipment. Some take PrEP because they are sexually active and want to worry less about getting HIV. Persons should discuss their motivation to start PrEP with their doctor to find out if PrEP is right for them.

  6. PrEP causes terrible side effects.

    PrEP can cause some side effects, but they usually go away after the first month. The most common side effects are upset stomach and loss of appetite.

  7. PrEP is not affordable.

    PrEP is covered by most health insurance plans. For persons without health insurance, there are medication assistance programs.

The Costs

Most health insurance plans cover PrEP. Our clinic can verify PrEP coverage with your health insurance provider before your appointment. If you do not have health insurance, there are assistance programs our clinic can help enroll you in so PrEP is affordable and accessible.

There are also co-pay assistance programs to help pay for medication co-pays. Information about these programs can be found here: http://www.truvada.com/truvada-patient-assistance.