Is PrEP Safe?
Before you start using PrEP, be certain you are HIV-negative, or you may risk developing HIV drug resistance if you are already infected with HIV when starting your PrEP treatment. That’s because Truvada is not sufficient on its own for treating HIV; so, if you are already infected, the virus in your body could actually become resistant to that drug. When the human body develops HIV drug resistance, certain medications will no longer be able to keep the virus in check for someone who is HIV positive.
If you are eligible to use PrEP, be aware that the drug can cause side effects like nausea in some people, but these generally subside over time. No serious side effects have been observed, and the side effects observed are not life threatening. If you are taking PrEP, tell your health care provider about any side effects that are severe or do not go away.
How Do I Pay For It?
The cost of PrEP is covered by many health insurance plans, and a commercial medication assistance program provides payment assistance to people with limited income and no insurance to cover PrEP care.
How Do I Get Started?
PrEP can be prescribed only by a health care provider, so talk to yours to find out 1) if he or she is familiar with PrEP; and 2) if he or she does recommend PrEP as the best HIV prevention strategy for you. You must take PrEP daily for it to work. It is important to remember, you must take an HIV test before beginning PrEP to be sure you don’t already have HIV and every three months while you’re taking it, so you’ll have to visit your health care provider for regular follow-ups.
What Questions Do I Need To Ask My Doctor?
- Am I a good candidate for PrEP?
- What other options could help me lower my risk of acquiring HIV?
- How effective would PrEP be at reducing my risk of acquiring HIV?
- Are there any side effects?
- Can you prescribe PrEP for me here?
- Are there ways to make sure I can afford to use PrEP regularly?
- Are you willing to prescribe and manage PrEP for me?
- If you do not prescribe PrEP, will you refer me to another PrEP provider?
- How often will I have to be tested for HIV and other STDs?
If I take PrEP, can I stop using condoms?
No, you should not stop using condoms because PrEP’s purpose and the purpose of condoms are not identical or interchangeable. PrEP does not give you any protection against other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), such as gonorrhea and chlamydia and does not prevent pregnancy. Also, while PrEP can significantly reduce your risk of acquiring HIV if taken daily, you can combine additional strategies like condom use with PrEP to reduce your risk even further.
If used the right way every time you have sex, condoms are highly effective in preventing HIV and some STDs you can get through body fluids, like gonorrhea and chlamydia. However, they provide less protection against STDs spread through skin-to-skin contact, like human papillomavirus or HPV (genital warts), genital herpes and syphilis.
How long do I need to take PrEP?
You must take PrEP daily for it to work. But there are several reasons people stop taking PrEP. For example:
- If your risk of acquiring HIV becomes low because of changes in your life, you may want to stop taking PrEP.
- If you find you don’t want to take a pill every day or often forget to take your pills, other ways of protecting yourself from acquiring HIV may work better for you.
- If the medicine is producing side effects that harm or discomfort you, or if blood tests show that your body is reacting to PrEP in unsafe ways, your provider may stop prescribing PrEP for you.