What is PrEP?
PrEP is short for Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis. PrEP is a medicine people can take to prevent HIV. When taken as prescribed, PrEP is highly effective at preventing HIV.
There are currently two forms of PrEP: a once-daily pill and an injectable medication.
- Once-daily pill: There are two oral medications available for PrEP under the brand names Truvada® and Descovy®. There are also generic versions available.
- Injection: Apretude is a long-acting injectable form of PrEP. It is also known by its generic name cabotegravir. Injections are administered by your healthcare provider, in their office, every other month.
PrEP is only available by prescription. Talk to your healthcare provider about whether PrEP may be right for you.
It is important to note that PrEP cannot prevent sexually transmitted infections (STIs) like gonorrhea or chlamydia, or pregnancy. This is why PrEP is used along with condoms and/or or other prevention tools.
Who uses PrEP?
People who are HIV-negative and at high risk of exposure to HIV use PrEP. It is an especially helpful tool for individuals who identify with the following groups or experiences:
- Men who have sex with other men
- Transgender women who have sex with men
- People who have a sex or drug injection partner who is HIV positive
- People who share needles, syringes, or other drug injection equipment
- People who have been diagnosed with an STI in the past 6 months
- People who have had anal or vaginal sex in the past 6 months and have not consistently used a condom
- People who have been prescribed multiple courses of HIV post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP)
Is PrEP right for me?
PrEP is an easy and effective way to prevent HIV. You should consider PrEP in addition to whatever you’re already doing to take care of your health if:
- You’re having trouble taking steps to lower the chances of getting HIV when having sex or injecting drugs.
- You’re doing a lot to lower the chances of getting HIV, like using condoms when you have sex, but want to do even more to prevent HIV infection.
- Your partner has HIV infection and you are considering getting pregnant. PrEP can be safely used during pregnancy or while breast/chestfeeding.
How do I get PrEP?
The first step to getting PrEP is talking to a nurse, doctor, or other trusted healthcare provider. They will:
- Talk with you about your risks for HIV infection, and ways to prevent HIV, including taking PrEP.
- Tell you what to expect when taking PrEP.
- Order laboratory tests for HIV, STIs, and a few other things to make sure it is safe for you to start PrEP.
If you are HIV-negative and decide to take PrEP, you will need to:
- Get a prescription.
- Take your medication as prescribed. If you are prescribed oral PrEP, you should take your pill every day. If you are prescribed injectable PrEP, you will need to see your health care provider every other month to receive an injection.
- Get re-tested for HIV and other STIs as recommended by your healthcare provider, usually every 2-3 months.
PrEP is usually covered by health insurance with no out-of-pocket costs for the medication, testing, or medical visits. If you don’t have insurance, or if you need help with out-of-pocket costs, there are programs to help with the cost of the medicine and the cost of deductibles or co-pays. For more information about paying for PrEP, or for help enrolling in health insurance coverage, contact the Massachusetts PrEP Drug Assistance Program (PrEPDAP) at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling (617) 502-1700, option 4.
If you are on someone else’s insurance policy, like a spouse or parent, it may be possible to keep billing information associated with HIV testing private. Learn about privacy in billing and find tools that can help you keep health information private when you’re on someone else’s insurance.
Where can I access PrEP?
Get connected to MDPH-supported PrEP programs.
What are some other ways I can prevent HIV?
PrEP is used along with other prevention tools. In addition to taking PrEP, there are other ways that you can prevent HIV:
- Get tested and treated for HIV and other STIs.
- Chose sexual activities that have a lower risk for transmission, like oral sex or masturbation.
- If you have anal or vaginal sex, use condoms every time.
- If you inject drugs, use only new needles, syringes, and other injection equipment
- Talk to your sex and/or drug injection partners about their HIV status and encourage them to get tested.
Learn more about preventing HIV infection and get connected to resources.
Where can I get more information?
- For more information about PrEP, PEP, and other prevention options for men who have sex with men, check out Care That Fits You.
- You can view the CDC webpage for more information about PrEP.
For more information about health insurance coverage of HIV PrEP in Massachusetts, please refer to "Frequently Asked Questions: Accessing Pre-exposure Prophylaxis" prepared by the Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation at Harvard Law School.