The LGBT Health & Development Program

Youth Blog—Be in the Know about PrEP!

Posted on May 29th, 2014 by Katie in Featured, Life & HIV, Youth Blog. No Comments

blue and gold pills that say Gilead

Photo credit: lukasBraun, “HIV,” April 14, 2012

What is PrEP?

PrEP stands for Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis. The word prophylaxis means to prevent the spread of infection or disease. PrEP is a way for people who are HIV negative to prevent future HIV infections by taking one pill every day. The pill contains two medications that can help stop HIV from spreading in your body. If you are exposed to HIV through sex or injection drug use, the medicines lower the chance that you will become infected with HIV. To be effective, PrEP must be taken every day and used along with other prevention methods like condoms. The pill currently approved by the Food and Drug Administration is called Truvada.

PrEP is different from PEP. If you may have been exposed to HIV after a one-time event, such as unprotected sex or needle sharing, ask your doctor about PEP.

Is PrEP a vaccine?

No. PrEP is a pill that must be taken every day to be effective. A vaccine is injected and helps your body fight off infection for years. Currently, there is no vaccination to prevent HIV infection.

How well does PrEP work?

Clinical studies have shown that the risk of getting HIV was up to 92% lower for individuals who took the medication daily [1]. PrEP must be present in the bloodstream to be effective – therefore, it does not work as well unless it is taken every day.

While PrEP is a very powerful and effective HIV prevention option, no strategy is 100% effective. Therefore, individuals who take PrEP should use it with other HIV prevention methods such as using condoms, regular HIV and STI testing, and knowing your partner’s HIV status.

Should I take PrEP?

As of May 2014, the CDC recommends that people who are currently HIV negative and at substantial risk for HIV infection should consider taking PrEP [2]. This includes men who have sex with men who frequently have sex without condoms or who are in a sexual relationship with an HIV-infected partner.

People who take PrEP must commit to taking the pill every day and visiting their doctor for follow-up HIV tests.

Where can I get PrEP?

If you think you are at risk for HIV and would like to learn more about PrEP, talk to your health care provider. Prior to prescribing PrEP, your provider will need run a blood test to confirm your HIV negative status and check your liver and kidney functioning. For additional information please see the CDC’s brochure, Talk to your Doctor about PrEP.

Is there help to pay for PrEP?

PrEP is covered by most health insurance. If you do not have insurance, talk with your health care provider about your options. Gilead, the company that makes the pill, offers a patient assistance program to those who cannot afford to pay for the medication.

Where can I get more information?

CDC Fact Sheet

CDC PrEP Research

Truvada website

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[1] CDC. (2014). Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP). Retrieved May 20, 2014 from

[2] CDC. (2014). Preexposure prophylaxis for the prevention of HIV infection in the United States – 2014: A clinical practice guideline. Washington, DC: U.S. Public Health Service.

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