What is PrEP?
PrEP stands for Pre (before) exposure (coming to contact) prophylaxis (treat to prevent). It is a pill taken by individuals who are 1) HIV-negative and 2) who are at risk of coming into contact with HIV virus. PrEP has been shown to reduce the risk of HIV infection significantly when taken as prescribed.
PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) is a combination of two antiviral medicines in one pill that you take every day – unless your doctor advises you differently. Continued, daily use ensures there is enough of the medication in your bloodstream to block HIV from infecting you when you come in contact with it.
Should I consider taking PrEP?
PrEP is appropriate for patients who are HIV-negative with specific risk factors, such as:
Gay/bisexual men and transgender persons:
Heterosexual men or women who have:
Drug users who have:
Is PrEP safe?
PrEP is generally safe and well tolerated. Most people on PrEP report experiencing no side effects, but some side effects have been reported most commonly:
Can I stop taking PrEP?
Discuss with your provider if you are considering stopping your PrEP medication. Some reasons to stop taking PrEP, include:
How can I pay for PrEP?
The cost of PrEP is covered by many health insurance plans, including Medicare and MediCal, and a commercial medication assistance program provides free PrEP to people with limited income and no insurance to cover PrEP care.
Your physician must prescribe PrEP
If you have any of the risk factors for contracting HIV, talk with your health care provider or physician about PrEP. At the initial visit, your provider will test for:
If your test results show that you are HIV-uninfected and it is safe for you to take PrEP, you can begin taking medication. Plan to make follow-up appointments for every three months to receive refills and obtain routine and safety labs. It’s important to understand that your provider cannot refill your prescription without blood-work at each 3-month interval.
Mild side effects such as nausea, loss of appetite and those listed above are associated with PrEP. If side effects do not subside, you should discuss them with your provider by phone or at your next visit.
In some instances, your doctor may decide PrEP is not safe for you to continue taking. Otherwise, you should continue taking the HIV prevention pill as prescribed until your risk of contracting HIV decreases or stops. The effectiveness of PrEP increases when you combine it with other prevention methods, such as condoms and regular STI testing.
To learn more about PrEP, the HIV prevention pill, contact your primary care physician or provider. For information about LGBTQ providers at UCLA Health, visit uclahealth.org/lgbtq/our-expert-team.