WHAT IS PRE-EXPOSURE PROPHYLAXIS (PrEP)?
“PrEP” stands for Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis. PrEP is a way for people who do not have HIV, but who are at substantial risk of acquiring it, to prevent HIV infection by taking a pill every day. The pill contains two medications that can help treat HIV. 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 (also known as Truvada) is a powerful HIV prevention tool and can be combined with condoms and other prevention methods to provide even greater protection than when used alone. People who use PrEP must commit to taking the drug every day and seeing their health care provider for follow-up visits every 3 months.
VIDEO: PrEP 101
FAQS ABOUT PrEP
PrEP is not for everyone. Federal guidelines recommend that PrEP be considered for people who are HIV-negative and at very high risk for HIV infection. This includes anyone who is in an ongoing relationship with an HIV-positive partner. It also includes anyone who:
- Is not in a mutually monogamous* relationship with a partner who recently tested HIV-negative, and
- Is a:
- gay or bisexual man who has had anal sex without a condom or been diagnosed with a sexually transmitted infection within the past 6 months;
- man who has sex with both men and women; or
- heterosexual man or woman who does not regularly use condoms during sex with partners of unknown HIV status who are at substantial risk of HIV infection (e.g., people who inject drugs or women who have bisexual male partners).
*Mutually monogamous means that you and your partner only have sex with each other and do not have sex outside the relationship.
PrEP is also recommended for people who have injected drugs in the past 6 months and have shared needles or works or been in drug treatment in the past 6 months.
If you have a partner who is HIV-positive and are considering getting pregnant, talk to your doctor about PrEP. It may be an option to protect you and your baby.
PrEP involves taking medication daily and regular visits to a health care provider.
Also, PrEP is only for people who are at ongoing substantial risk of HIV infection. For people who need to prevent HIV after a single high-risk event of potential HIV exposure—such as sex without a condom, needle-sharing injection drug use, or sexual assault—there is another option called post-exposure prophylaxis, or PEP. PEP must begin within 72 hours of exposure.
It’s also important to remember that taking PrEP will not prevent you from getting syphilis, gonorrhea, chlamydia, or other sexually transmitted infections. Similarly, for those taking PrEP because of injection drug use risks, PrEP will not protect you from getting hepatitis C, skin, or heart infections.
Some people in the 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 within the first month. Some people also had a mild headache. No serious side effects were observed. If you are on PrEP, you should tell your healthcare provider if these or other symptoms become severe or do not go away.
When taken every day, PrEP has been shown to reduce the risk of HIV infection in people who are at high risk by more than 92%. PrEP is much less effective if it is not taken consistently. PrEP can be even more effective if it is combined with other ways to prevent new HIV infections like condom use, drug abuse treatment, and treatment for people living with HIV to reduce the chance of passing the virus to others.
PrEP was tested in several large studies with men who have sex with men, men who have sex with women, women who have sex with men, and people who inject drugs. Information on the details of these studies can be found at www.cdc.gov/hiv/prep.