What is PrEP?
PrEP is a way of preventing HIV infection by taking a pill on an ongoing basis before sex. It’s taken by someone who doesn’t have HIV yet, to prevent them from getting HIV. The PrEP pill is the same type of pill taken by someone who already has HIV to treat HIV.
Should I consider taking PrEP?
PrEP is for those who have a high risk of coming in contact with HIV by not using a condom when they have sex with a person who has HIV infection.
You should consider PrEP if you are a man or woman who sometimes has sex without using a condom, especially if you have sex partners who might have HIV infection or if you don’t know whether your partner has HIV infection but you know that your partner is at risk.
How soon is it effective?
PrEP needs to be taken daily for between 4 and 7 days for protective levels to be reached in the blood.
Does PrEP work?
YES. Studies across the world have shown that daily oral PrEP is highly effective for protecting people from HIV during sex. The iPREX trial showed that it was most effective when taken every day.
Are there side effects?
Most people don’t experience side effects. When people do get them they tend to go away on their own within a few weeks.
Should I discuss PrEP with my doctor?
It is highly recommended that you discuss this with a doctor at a sexual health clinic. Medical staff will be able to offer important tests before starting PrEP – such as kidney function tests. Most importantly, they will be able to provide the right kind of HIV test – PrEP should only be started if you know you are HIV negative for sure.
How to use prep?
PrEP should only be used if you are HIV negative. So firstly you should do a test to confirm you are HIV negative. For this do not have unsafe sex for 3 weeks before you do the test.
Once established you are HIV negative you can start treatment with PREP, recommended on a daily basis. The research studies that led to the approval of PrEP in the US all used daily dosing. The UK PROUD study also used daily dosing. Daily dosing is therefore the only dosing strategy that has been proved in large trials.
After about 7 days protective levels should be reached in the blood. To check this you can ask your doctor to do a test to show the levels in your blood are satisfactory.
Get tested for HIV-1 at least every 3 months.