Why Should I Take PrEP?
PrEP is for people without HIV who are at high risk for acquiring it from sex or injection drug use. The federal guidelines recommend that PrEP be considered for people who are HIV-negative and in an ongoing sexual relationship with someone living with HIV. For those at very high risk for HIV, PrEP can significantly reduce your risk of HIV infection if taken daily. Daily PrEP use can lower the risk of acquiring HIV from sex by more than 92 percent and from injection drug use by more than 70 percent. You can combine additional strategies with PrEP to reduce your risk even further. This also applies to anyone who is not in a mutually monogamous* relationship with a partner who recently tested HIV-negative, and who is . . .
- A gay or bisexual man who has had anal sex without using a condom or been diagnosed with an STD within the past six months, OR …
- A heterosexual man or woman who does not regularly use condoms during sex with partners of unknown HIV status who are at substantial risk of HIV infection (for example, people who inject drugs or women who have bisexual male partners).
Questions to Ask Yourself …
- Are you HIV-negative?
- Are you in a relationship with someone living with HIV?
- Do you have sex with men and have you had unprotected sex or been diagnosed with a sexually transmitted infection (STI) in the last six months?
- Have you injected drugs in the past six months?
- Are you sexually active with multiple partners, but do not use condoms regularly?
Additionally, if your partner is living with HIV and is considering getting pregnant, consult your doctor about PrEP if you’re not already taking it. PrEP may be an option to help protect you and your unborn baby from acquiring HIV while you try to get pregnant, during pregnancy, or while breastfeeding.
Though PrEP performs well as a preventative measure for the majority of those taking the pill, it may not be right for everyone. Also, PrEP may cause side effects like nausea in some people, but these generally subside over time, and these side effects are not life threatening.
* Mutually monogamous means that you and your partner only have sex with each other and do not have sex outside the relationship.
Due to HIV’s impact as a life-changing chronic illness, publicizing the facts — and exposing myths and misconceptions — about PrEP is vital. Here are five of the most common misconceptions about this important medical treatment and what it can and cannot do.
Myth No. 1: PrEP is only for people frequently having sex with multiple partners
Due to PrEP being useful only to those who are sexually active, those who use PrEP are occasionally associated with promiscuity. In fact, whether you have only one sexual partner or several partners, daily use of PrEP reflects caution, self-discipline and a sense of responsibility. It demonstrates care and respect for your sexual partners and yourself.
Most insurance plans cover PrEP. If you aren’t covered by insurance, there are several patient assistance programs and alternative health care options that can assist you.
Like every other STD prevention method, PrEP is not 100 percent effective, and doctors are still conducting clinical trials to determine how condom use may affect individuals taking the medication. Also, PrEP does not protect the user from other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). That’s why it’s important to continue using condoms even though your HIV risk may already be drastically reduced.
PrEP encourages a safe and respectful approach toward sexual intimacy. PrEP does not encourage sexual promiscuity. Long before PrEP’s arrival, consenting adults of every background regularly engaged in casual sex. PrEP specifically encourages precautionary sex.
Anyone taking a single pill on a day they plan to have sex will do little to decrease their risk of contracting HIV. PrEP simply does not perform like pain relief medication — it’s a matter of weeks before the preventative effects can accumulate. According to the CDC, receptive anal partners should the drug a minimal 7 days and vaginal partners 20 days before engaging in sex. An occasional missed dose will not reduce the drug’s effectiveness, but we recommend taking your PrEP pill every day.