What is pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) for HIV?
Pre-exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) is one way to help prevent HIV. Prophylaxis means disease prevention. In this approach, people who do not have HIV take one pill once a day to reduce the risk of getting HIV. The pill includes two of the same medications used to treat HIV.
How does PrEP work to prevent HIV?
PrEP medicines limit HIV’s ability to enter the body.
- These medications are typically used to treat people living with HIV. They are very effective in keeping the virus under control by preventing it from dividing and spreading in the body.
- By stopping HIV from dividing and spreading, these medications also prevent new infection.
- Truvada® is currently the only FDA-approved medication to be used for PrEP.
Who should us PrEP for HIV?
PrEP is recommended for people who do not have HIV and are at an increased risk of getting HIV. This includes, but is not limited to:
- Gay and bisexual men
- Men who have sex with men (MSM)
- People who have condom-less vaginal or anal sex
- Transgender people, especially transgender women
- Individuals who share injection drug equipment
- People who engage in commercial sex work
- HIV-negative men and women who have a partner living with HIV who does not have an undetectable viral load.
How well does PrEP work?
- Several studies have shown PrEP to be more than 90% effective in preventing HIV when used daily. The level of protection decreases if doses are missed.
- PrEP is most effective when combined with other prevention efforts, like using condoms.
Does PrEP prevent other sexually transmitted disease (STDs)?
No, PrEP does not prevent other STDs or pregnancy. However, using safer sex practices, such as condoms, will help prevent STDs and pregnancy.
What should an individual expect if they use PrEP?
Taking PrEP for HIV requires a commitment to:
- An intake interview and counseling
- Testing for HIV, STDs, hepatitis B, and kidney function before starting PrEP
- Taking a pill every day
- Regular medical visits every three months after starting PrEP for follow-up HIV tests and evaluation.
Are there side effect to taking PrEP?
- People living with HIV have used Truvada® and other similar medications for several years. They are generally easy and safe to take.
- Some people experience nausea, headaches, and loss of appetite. These can be treated and are not life threatening.
- Rare long-term side effects include loss of bone density and kidney problems.
Is PrEP covered by insurance?
Yes, most insurance and Colorado Medicaid cover the cost minus a co-pay or deductible. For people who are uninsured, payment assistance programs are available to provide PrEP at low or no cost.
Who to contact to talk about using PrEP
Individuals who think they are at increased risk for HIV should talk with the Linkage to Care team at Denver Public Health by calling (303) 602-3652 for information, questions about insurance coverage, and referrals.