PrEP is short for Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis and is a medication regimen to reduce the likelihood of contracting HIV. A once daily pill can be 92%-100% effective at preventing HIV. Currently, the only medication that has been FDA-approved to be used as PrEP is Truvada®, which combines emtricitabine and tenofovir. PrEP requires a prescription as well as special health considerations.
PRE = BEFORE
EXPOSURE = COMING INTO CONTACT WITH HIV
PROPHYLAXIS = TREATMENT TO PREVENT AN INFECTION
PrEP does NOT protect against other sexually transmitted infections and is NOT a vaccine.
PrEP is different than PEP. PEP is short for Post-Exposure Prophylaxis. PEP is a sort of morning-after pill for HIV and must be taken within 72 hours of possible HIV exposure. If someone who is HIV negative and not already taking PrEP experiences sexual violence or has sex without a condom with someone who might be living with HIV, they should reach out to a doctor or local AIDS Service Organization about starting PEP. PEP is a 30 day prescription of powerful anti-HIV medications and should only be taken when necessary
For more information about PrEP and PEP providers in Ohio,
Who should take PrEP?
PrEP may be prescribed for anyone at high risk for HIV who is OK with taking a pill daily to prevent HIV. The most high-risk populations for contracting HIV include men who have sex with men, intravenous drug users and people in a relationship where one partner is living with HIV.
Is PrEP right for me?
If you are interested in beginning a PrEP regimen, you should start by having an honest conversation with your healthcare provider. Before being prescribed PrEP, you will need to get a blood test to show that you’re HIV negative and need to be tested for HIV and STIs about every three months.
Taking PrEP does not mean you don’t need condoms. When taken every day, PrEP significantly reduces your risk for HIV. However, PrEP is not effective against the transmission of other STIs or pregnancy.
How much does PrEP cost
Most private insurance plans will cover a prescription for PrEP. However, without insurance coverage, PrEP can be very expensive. Taking this medication daily will cost about $13,000 a year if you are entirely financially responsible for the costs. Talk to your insurer to learn more about how PrEP will fit in with your health plan.
Gilead’s Medication Assistance Program (MAP) for PrEP
If you do not have health insurance, then apply for this program to see if you are eligible to get Truvada for PrEP for free. You must not have health insurance, and income verification is required. Your medical provider needs to submit an application form. If approved your medication will be dispensed to your medical provider directly. For more info call 1-855-330-5479, or visit truvada.com.
Gilead’s Co-Payment Assistance Program (CAP)
If you have health insurance, save up to $200 per month on your Truvada copays. There is no income restriction for eligibility. Your medical provider or pharmacy can submit the application form. Once approved, you will be given a card and medication will be dispensed to your preferred pharmacy. For more info, call 1-877-505-6986, or visit truvada.com.
If you are enrolled in Medicaid or Medicare, or have coverage for prescription drugs under any other public program or other third party payer, then you are not eligible for Gilead’s MAP and CAP.
If I miss doses, will my body become immune to PrEP?
Missing doses will not cause immunity, but taking PrEP while HIV positive will. PrEP is not sufficient to treat HIV alone, so it is important to be tested for HIV before starting PrEP. If you do contract HIV at any time while taking PrEP, the HIV strain could develop an immunity, which could eliminate PrEP as an effective treatment option.
How effective is PrEP?
Studies show that when taken everyday, PrEP can be between up to 99-percent effective at preventing the HIV virus from taking hold within your body. However, it’s critical you take pill regularly every day. Skipping days will significantly decrease the effectiveness of PrEP.
According to the iPrex study:
- For people who take 7 PrEP pills per week, their estimated level of protection is 99 percent.
- For people who take 4 PrEP pills per week, their estimated level of protection is 96 percent.
- For people who take 2 PrEP pills per week, their estimated level of protection is 76 percent.
What are the side effects?
Some people taking PrEP report nausea, vomiting, fatigue and dizziness in the first few weeks of taking the medication. These symptoms usually resolve themselves over time. Other possible side effects include changes in kidney function and bone density, so it’s important to get check-ups with your physician every two to three months while taking PrEP.
Where can I learn more about taking PrEP?
- CDC 2014 Clinical Practice Guidelines:cdc.gov/hiv/pdf/PrEPguidelines2014.pdf