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  • Dr. Wendasha

Let's Talk About PrEP, Baby!

What is PrEP?


PrEP (Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis) is a combination of two HIV drugs (tenofovir and

emtricitabine) sold under the brand name Truvada. PrEP is a daily pill for high-risk, HIV-

negative individuals that reduces their chances for getting HIV infection.

Simply put:

  • Pre-Exposure = before or prior to coming into contact with HIV

  • Prophylaxis = treatment that prevents HIV infection from happening.

Wait...isn’t PrEP for gay men?

Most PrEP ads are geared toward gay and bisexual men. However, multiple studies have shown

that PrEP helps to reduce HIV risk in gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men,

How does PrEP work?

Typically, when HIV invades the body, the virus hijacks the immune system’s CD4 T-cells and

injects the cells with its genetic material. Once inside the cells, the virus’ genetic material

combines with the cell’s DNA and reprograms the cell to make more copies of HIV. The

infected cells rapidly make thousands of copies of the virus. These new copies of HIV burst out

of the cell, enter the bloodstream, and infect other CD4 T-cells. This process continues until the

immune system is completely destroyed.

PrEP, on the other hand, works by preventing HIV from multiplying within CD4 T-cells; thus,

giving the body an opportunity to rid itself of the infected cells.

How effective is PrEP?

When taken daily, PrEP has been shown to reduce the risk of sexually transmitted HIV by more

than 90%. The pill reduces the risk of HIV infection among people who inject drugs by more

than 70%. When combined with condoms, the risk of getting HIV from sex is even lower.

Remember, PrEP is only effective if it is taken consistently and correctly. 

Should everyone take PrEP?

No, PrEP is NOT for everyone. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends

PrEP for: 

  • Anyone in a sexual relationship with a known HIV-positive partner;

  • Gay and bisexual men who (1) have condomless anal sex or (2) have been recently diagnosed with a sexually transmitted infection (STI);

  • Anyone

  • Anyone who (1) injects drugs and share needles or other injection equipment or (2) has been in a treatment program for injection drug use.

Condoms will suffice for everyone else.

So how much does PrEP cost?

Many private insurance plans cover most of the costs associated with PrEP treatment, with the

expectation that patients pay the required co-pays and deductibles outlined in their policy.

Medicaid should also provide coverage for PrEP, but, some states may require your doctor to get

pre-approval for the drug before filling your prescription. Be sure to check with your insurer to

learn what drugs and services are covered under your plan.  

For those without prescription drug coverage, PrEP can be expensive. A year of PrEP treatment

can exceed $13,000. BUT, all is not lost. Gilead, the manufacturer of Truvada, offers a

individuals. The Patient Advocate Foundation also provides relief to qualified individuals

needing help with PrEP related costs.

Ok, I'm convinced! Where can I get PrEP? 

A prescription is required to get PrEP. Any healthcare provider licensed to prescribe medication

may prescribe PrEP. If you don't have have a primary care doctor or your healthcare provider

doesn't feel comfortable prescribing PrEP, there may be organizations in your area that assist

people with getting PrEP. Click here to find a PrEP-friendly provider near you!

Once I start PrEP, can I ditch condoms?

It is recommended to use condoms every time you have sex even if you are taking PrEP.

Condoms further decrease your risk for getting HIV and protect you from other STIs, such as

chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis. They also prevent unintended pregnancies. 

In reality, not everyone chooses to use condoms. The decision to use condoms is at the sole

discretion of you and your partner(s). In some instances, condom use is not a viable choice due

to situations such as sex trafficking or domestic violence. In these situations, PrEP provides a

self-controlled form of HIV prevention for those who can not negotiate condom use. 

To learn more about PrEP please visit:

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