What is PrEP?
PrEP is a pill taken every day that is a promising new tool to prevent HIV. It is similar to the way birth control pills are taken every day to prevent pregnancy.
PrEP is highly effective at preventing HIV when used the right way. It is often used along with condoms or other prevention tools as it cannot prevent STDs or pregnancy.
Right now, Truvada® is the only medication approved to be used as PrEP. Truvada® is used by people who are HIV-negative as a once-daily medicine to prevent HIV. When combined with other antivirals, Truvada® can be used as treatment for people who are HIV-positive.
Who is PrEP for?
PrEP is used by HIV-negative people at high risk of getting HIV. It is an especially helpful tool for:
- Men who have sex with other men
- Transgender women who have sex with men
- People who are in an ongoing sexual relationship with someone who is HIV-positive
PrEP is also beneficial when there are other factors that suggest high risk, such as:
- Having sex for money, drugs, housing, or other things people need
- Sharing injection equipment for drugs or hormones
- Having recent STDs, especially syphilis or rectal gonorrhea/chlamydia
How can my clients get PrEP?
Primary care clinicians can prescribe PrEP but there are many who don’t know about it or don't feel comfortable prescribing it. You may need to help your clients prepare for their medical visit and give them some information to give to their providers or for them to read over themselves. Information about PrEP that you can have your clients read over is available from the CDC. You may also need to encourage them to advocate for themselves or find another clinician.
In general, during a PrEP consultation, your client’s clinician will:
- Talk with your clients about risks and a variety of ways to prevent HIV, including taking PrEP
- Tell your clients what to expect when taking PrEP, including possible short-term side-effects
- Order tests for HIV, STDs, and a few other things to make sure it is safe to start PrEP
If your clients test HIV-negative and decide to take PrEP, they will need to:
- Get a prescription
- Take one pill every day
- Be tested for HIV/STD and kidney function every few months
PrEP is usually covered by health insurance. If necessary, you can connect your clients to one of two programs to help with the cost of the medicine or the cost of deductibles or co-pays. These programs are available through Truvada and the Community Research Initiative of New England.
Is PrEP right for my clients?
PrEP is an easy and effective way to help prevent HIV. It needs to be prescribed, but is safe for most people. Only your clients can decide if PrEP is a good addition to whatever they are already doing to take care of their sexual health, but PrEP is beneficial for clients who:
- Are having trouble consistently taking steps to reduce their risk of getting HIV
- Are doing a lot to reduce their risk of getting HIV, but want to do even more
When your clients are considering PrEP, you may need to help them strategize about how to ensure they can be successful with taking a once-daily pill and getting to their medical appointments.
What are some ways my clients can prevent HIV?
PrEP is one way to prevent HIV. Whether or not your clients take PrEP, here are a few other ways they can reduce the risk of getting HIV:
- Get tested regularly for HIV/STDs and talk with partners about their HIV/STD status
- If their partners are HIV-positive, have sex when they have an undetectable viral load
- Have lower-risk sex (oral, mutual masturbation, etc.) instead of, or more often than, anal or vaginal sex
- Limit their number of sex partners
- Use condoms for anal or vaginal sex
Where can I get more information?
- The CDC website has current PrEP treatment guidelines, information on clinical trials, and educational resources for healthcare professionals.
- FDA approved Medication Guide
- The National Clinical Consultation Center provides up-to-date clinical consultation for HIV medical management, such as prescribing PrEP and nPEP. You can contact them at (855) 448-7737 (855-HIV-PREP) from 11 a.m. – 6 p.m. ET, Monday-Friday.
- For more information about PrEP, PEP, TasP, and other prevention options for men who have sex with men, check out the CareThatFitsYou campaign.
Where can I get materials for my clients?
PrEP materials such as brochures and wallet cards are available at no cost to you on the Massachusetts Health Promotion Clearinghouse.