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PrEP Step-by-Step

  • Category: LGBTQ+
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PrEP Step-by-Step

Have questions about HIV prevention?

We’ve got answers.

June 27 is National HIV Testing Day!
Visit our table in the Atrium of the University Medical Center on June 27, 2024 from 10 a.m.–1 p.m. to support our HIV awareness campaign. The theme for this year's National HIV Testing Day is "Level up your self-love: check your status." Knowing your HIV status can help you stay healthy. Advances in testing, treatment, and prevention have resulted in progress toward the nation's goal to end the HIV epidemic by 2030. 

At LCMC, we believe that keeping you well starts with keeping you informed.

We’re here to answer some of your most-asked questions about PrEP, a medication that helps to prevent HIV transmission. Staying up to date on the latest prevention options won’t just contribute to your personal wellbeing, either. Research show that HIV education is also an effective tool for reducing HIV stigma and discrimination.

Ready to get primed and protected? Click on your question to jump to the answer, or read on for a comprehensive overview of what PrEP can do for you.

What is PrEP?

PrEP stands for pre-exposure prophylaxis. “Prophylaxis” refers to any action taken to prevent the spread of a disease or infection. In this case, PrEP can protect you from getting HIV in the event of exposure to the virus. PrEP is available as a once-daily pill and as an injectable treatment. Your doctor can help you to determine which prevention method is most appropriate for you.

How effective is PrEP?
PrEP is 99% effective at preventing sexually transmitted HIV infection. However, it is less effective when it is not taken as prescribed. It’s important not to miss doses and to maintain check-ins with your provider. You should also be sure to proactively seek refills to avoid gaps in your regimen. And remember: PrEP can only prevent HIV, so continue practicing safe sex to protect yourself from other STIs.

Who should take PrEP?

The CDC recommends PrEP for anyone who has been diagnosed with an STI in the last six months; anyone with a sexual partner who has been diagnosed with HIV; anyone with a sexual partner of unknown HIV status; and anyone who does not regularly use condoms during sex. Other factors may contribute to your decision to begin a PrEP regimen, so your first step should always be to consult with your doctor.

How do I get PrEP?
PrEP is a prescription medication and cannot be purchased over the counter. Once a doctor determines that PrEP is right for you, they’ll start by administering an HIV test, as people living with HIV are not eligible for PrEP. Once you test negative for HIV, your doctor can write you a prescription for PrEP. If you’re ready to talk to a provider about PrEP and haven’t established care with LCMC, use our provider portal to find a doctor near you and book an appointment.

When should I start taking PrEP?

You should begin taking PrEP—and continue taking it—as soon as you and your doctor decide you would benefit from HIV prevention. Once you start your regimen, the medication will reach maximum efficacy at preventing HIV after around 21 days of daily use. Continue taking other precautions against HIV, such as using condoms, during that time.

Can PrEP treat HIV?

No, PrEP can only be used to prevent HIV infection. However, treatments are available for people living with HIV. These treatments are anti-retroviral therapies (ART), and can effectively lower and manage a person’s HIV viral load. They can even reduce viral loads to undetectable levels, which means there is no risk of sexually transmitting HIV to partners.

Is PrEP an emergency medication?

PrEP should not be used as an emergency medication. If you have been exposed to HIV in the last 72 hours and are not currently taking PrEP, talk to your doctor or an emergency physician about post-exposure prophylaxis, also known as PEP. Take action quickly, as PEP is most effective when taken within 3 days of exposure.

What does PrEP Cost?

The Affordable Care Act makes PrEP (along with associated lab and clinic visits) free for most insured individuals. However, resources like Ready, Step, PrEP can also help those without insurance access low-cost or free PrEP medications.