What is PrEP for HIV?
PrEP is short for Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis. PrEP is a prescription medication that comes as a pill or injection, and when taken or administered correctly, will prevent HIV with a 99% effectiveness rate. PrEP is even more effective than condoms for preventing a new sexually transmitted HIV infection (and condoms are extremely effective!). It is important to note that PrEP for HIV will NOT prevent other STI’s or Hepatitis C. Condoms are the best defense against most STI’s.
What is the Difference Between a Pill and Injection?
The most common way to take PrEP is a once daily pill. Truvada has been prescribed for PrEP for over 10 years and is approved for all groups at risk for HIV. It also comes in generic version, which almost everyone can access for free. Descovy is a similar medication that has only been approved for cis males. For cis males, these medications reach maximum effectiveness after taking them for seven days in a row. For women or persons with front holes, Truvada takes 21 days before reaching maximum effectiveness. Unsure which is best for you? The SFAF (San Francisco AIDS Foundation) has made a side by side comparison of Truvada and Descovy. To see that comparison, CLICK HERE.
What if I Can’t or Don’t Want to take a Pill Everyday?
Some providers may offer Truvada for PrEP on an on-demand basis, or 2-1-1. For on-demand PrEP, two pills are taken two to 24 hours before sexual activity. One pill is taken 24 hours after that sexual activity and a fourth pill is taken 48 hours following sexual activity. Since not everyone knows exactly when they may have an sexual encounter, taking PrEP daily is the CDC recommendation.
Longer lasting PrEP for HIV is available with the newest form of PrEP, injectable Apretude. This medication is administered every two months by a health provider into the muscle in the buttocks. Injectables are great for persons who may not able to take a pill or who are not able to be consistent with taking oral medications. When starting Apretude, you will receive monthly injections for the first two months and an injection every other month thereafter. For more information on Apretude, CLICK HERE.
I Hear PrEP is Really Expensive?
All health insurance plans must cover at least one kind of PrEP with zero cost to you. Usually, this is generic Truvada. Insurance plans may or may not cover other forms of PrEP and may impose a co-pay (a portion of the cost you must cover). Fortunately, there are several programs which can help cover co-pays and reduce the cost. For Truvada and Descovy, the manufacturer Gilead offers a co-pay assistance program. Click HERE for more information on that program. ViiV is the manufacturer of Apretude and information on their co-pay assistance program can be found HERE. If you are uninsured or underinsured, Ready, Set, PrEP. is a program that can help you get PrEP for free. The bottom line is that cost should not be a barrier and APNH can help!
But, the Side Effects!?
Before it was used for PrEP, Truvada was a part of treatment of HIV for years, so there are decades of evidence showing it is safe. If you already have a condition like kidney disease or osteoporosis (thin bones), it may change your options for PrEP, but a medical provider can help decide what’s best for you. If side effects are experienced, they are usually mild and will go away in a week or two. The more common side effects include: tiredness, upset stomach/gastrointestinal distress, and/or headache. A more serious but rare side effect is diminished kidney function. Your provider will keep an eye on you and your kidney functions to ensure there are no adverse effects. Expect to visit your provider every three months. Once your tolerance has been established, your provider may wish to see you less frequently.
Like Truvada and Descovy, the injectable Apretude is generally well tolerated. Side effects are typically mild and go away quickly. Apretude can have an adverse affect on the liver and your provider will monitor your liver functions to ensure you will tolerate the drug. Common side effects may include feeling tired, upset stomach, and/or headache.
How Do I Get PrEP for HIV?
APNH partners with online provider heyMistr.com as well as local providers. Using our online partner at heyMistr is quick and easy. They will provide you with a consult with a health provider, testing for HIV and other STI’s and a prescription. You may begin with testing at APNH and proceed to heyMistr. heyMistr accepts most insurance plans. If uninsured or have the state insurance plan, HUSKY, you may not be able to use heyMister. APNH is able to connect you directly with local providers who will be able to assist you in obtaining affordable PrEP. For more information, please contact a Prevention Services Coordinator at 475.441.7020.
If you have any questions regarding PrEP, please contact us at 475.441.7020. If you wish to make an appointment with APNH for HIV and STI testing, please CLICK HERE.