Learn more about PrEP!
Learn more about PrEP!
To understand how PrEP works, let’s first start with a quick understanding of how HIV medications work in someone who is HIV positive:
A person living with HIV takes at least three or four HIV drugs called “Combination Antiretroviral Therapy” that work together to keep the virus from replicating. These medications don’t attack the virus directly, but play more of a defensive role to halt the virus from finding new immune cells to replicate itself in the body.
A similar thing happens in PrEP – but with only one pill, named Truvada, taken once-a-day. When Truvada is taken as PrEP with a person who is HIV negative, it plays that same type of defense inside your cells – preventing HIV from establishing infection in the body. If HIV exposure happens in a person taking PrEP, the virus is unable to find a way to replicate inside the body – which is what it needs to establish infection.
PrEP only protects against HIV.
You’ll need to use another method of protection to protect against STIs such as Chlamydia, Gonorrhea and Syphilis.
How effective is PrEP?
When taken consistently, PrEP has been shown to reduce the risk of HIV infection in people who are at high risk by up to 92%. PrEP is much less effective if it is not taken consistently.
In a recent Kaiser Permanente Medical Center study in San Francisco, researchers followed over 600 gay men for 2.5 years who were consistently taking PrEP. ZERO HIV infections were reported from the men participating in that study. Read more about this real-world study here.
Are there any side effects?
A few people in clinical studies of PrEP had early side effects such as an upset stomach or loss of appetite, but these were mild and usually went away in the first month. Some people also had a mild headache. No serious side effects were observed. Your should tell your health care provider if these or other symptoms become severe or do not go away.
Frequently Asked Questions:
Why do I need PrEP?
PrEP may be a good option for you if…
- you’re a man who’s having anal sex with other men and you don’t always use condoms, are the bottom or “vers”, or have multiple anonymous partners.
- you’re in an ongoing relationship with an HIV positive partner.
- you’re in an open relationship, have sex outside of a relationship or suspect your partner is having sex outside of the relationship. It’s reported that over 30% of new HIV infections happen within a self-reported “monogamous relationship”.
- you inject drugs and share needles (even if they’re only shared occasionally).
Does PrEP mean I don’t need to use condoms?
While PrEP or condoms aren’t 100% effective at preventing HIV, PrEP can offer you a layer of protection in those instances where you may be already struggling to use condoms consistently. PrEP shouldn’t be used as a tool to increase risky behavior, but to fill in the gaps and provide a back-up plan when risks are already a part of your life.
You’ll get the most protection from HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases if you consistently take PrEP and consistently use condoms during sex. PrEP does not protect you from other STIs like gonorrhea, chlamydia and syphilis. If you are infected with an STI, PrEP may not be as effective since STIs can create an open door for HIV to enter the body. Your provider will test you regularly for HIV and STIs to help you maintain your sexual health.
Can I just use PrEP when I’m having sex?
No. PrEP must be taken every day to give the best protection against HIV.
Think of it in the same context as birth control pills that also have to be taken daily in order to prevent pregnancy. Levels of PrEP need to be strong and active in your system in order to provide the best protection against HIV. All available research shows PrEP’s effectiveness declines greatly if it is not taken consistently, so intermittent use is NOT recommended. PrEP must be taken every day to give the best protection against HIV.
Will people think I’m a whore or having risky sex if I take PrEP?
People think a lot of things about a lot of people. Who cares. A person’s decision to take PrEP is a very personal decision, not anyone else’s. It’s an investment in your sexual health – and we think that’s worth celebrating!
From being called “Truvada Whores” to slut-shaming, people seeking to take control of their sexual health can face stigma from friends, family, and even doctors about using PrEP. Using PrEP doesn’t mean a person will increase their sexual risks, but it does mean they have made an informed decision to add a layer of protection to avoid HIV infection. If you find stigma with your Primary Care Physician, find a list of PrEP-friendly health care providers here. No one needs to know you take this pill each day except you and your doctor – or – take a stand on stigma, snap a selfie and tag us in your post!!