PrEP stands for Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis and it involves taking an anti-HIV medication daily to provide protection against HIV infection by preventing it from becoming established in the body.
Studies show PrEP reduces HIV risk by 92% to 99% if taken every day – if a daily dose is missed, the level of HIV protection may decrease. It only works if you take it.
Those studies also showed that PrEP helps reduce HIV risk in men who have sex with men, transgendered women, heterosexual men and women, and people who inject drugs.
PrEP is part of a prevention toolkit, one of a variety of options that people can take to protect themselves – including condoms.
Sometimes things conspire against using a condom. Studies show that many people do not use condoms for anal or vaginal sex with a partner even when they aren’t sure of their HIV status.
If you answer yes to any of these questions, then PrEP might be for you:
Do you use condoms sometimes or not at all?
Do you get often get STIs in your butt?
Have you taken Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP) more than once in the past year?
Is your sexual partner HIV-positive with a detectable viral load and you are HIV-negative?
Are you in an open relationship or having sex with multiple partners?
Are you having sex with someone whose HIV status you don’t know?
You can also use this scorecard to find out if you’re at risk of HIV
Studies show that, when taken daily, it’s 92% to 99% effective.
It’s not a good idea to share prescription drugs and the drugs may not work for PrEP.
In Canada, the only medication approved for PrEP is Truvada (tenofovir disoproxil fumarate/emtricitabine) – Health Canada recommends that it be used daily to be effective.
You won’t feel anything (most people don’t experience side effects) to know that it’s working. That’s why it’s important to take it every day.
No. You still need to use condoms to protect against STIs and should be tested regularly and treated promptly if you get an STI.
It is possible to get HIV while on PrEP if you miss doses. Your doctor tests you for HIV at every clinic appointment and will help you get set up with an HIV clinic if that happens.
Yes, your family doctor can get you started on PrEP. If they have questions on how to start, coverage issues or monitoring we are happy to help; your family doctor can call us at the clinic and we can give them a hand.