Today there are more ways than ever to prevent HIV transmission, including abstinence (not having sex), refraining from sharing needles and other injection drug equipment, and using condoms correctly every time you have sex.
You may have also heard about PrEP, a type of medication that can help prevent HIV transmission. If you are still uncertain about what PrEP is or if it might be right for you, we’ve complied this guide to help inform your decision.
What is PrEP?
Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) is a daily medication that helps prevent HIV transmission from sex and/or injection drug use.
Is it effective?
When it comes to sex, PrEP can reduce the risk of contracting HIV by about 99% when taken correctly and consistently. PrEP also reduces the risk of HIV transmission from injection drug use by at least 74% when taken as prescribed.
PrEP must be taken daily to reach its full effectiveness. For receptive anal sex (“bottoming”), PrEP must be taken daily for about 7 days before it reaches maximum protection. For receptive vaginal sex and injection drug use, PrEP reaches maximum protection at about 21 days of daily use. Research is still on-going for timelines related to insertive anal sex (“topping”) and insertive vaginal sex. 
Who should take PrEP?
PrEP is recommended for individuals who are currently HIV-negative and are considered “at risk” for contracting HIV. PrEP is also currently approved for use by adolescents who weigh at least 75 pounds and who are at risk of contracting HIV.
Some “risky” practices include having a sexual partner with HIV, not consistently using a condom, or sharing needles, syringes, and other injection drug equipment. For a more descriptive list of high-risk activities, you can visit the CDC’s PrEP Decision page.
How do I start PrEP?
Your first step to getting on PrEP is to talk to your health care provider. This can be your primary care doctor, or it can be a community health provider, similar to Caring Communities.
Before beginning PrEP, you will need to take an HIV test to make sure you don’t already have the virus. Once you are taking PrEP, you will need to visit your provider every 3 months for follow-up visits, HIV tests, and prescription refills. Some providers are able to perform these visits with the use of telemedicine and mail-in self-testing.
How will I pay for PrEP?
Most insurance plans and state Medicaid programs will cover the costs of PrEP. If you do not have insurance, there are other assistance programs in place to help lower your cost of PrEP. The CDC has a handy flow chart that can help you decide what might be the best way for you to pay for PrEP. You can also speak to your provider to see if they can help you access these assistance programs.
The CDC has more in-depth guides to all of the topics mentioned above, which you can find here.
If you still have questions about PrEP, or are interested in getting a PrEP prescription, you can contact our clinics to schedule an appointment today! Call 570-829-2700 or visit our online appointment scheduler.