How to Get PrEP Online
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Medically reviewed by Katelyn Hagerty. Last updated 08/18/2021.
What is PrEP?
PrEP stands for Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis.
It’s the use of drugs to prevent disease in people who are HIV negative or not been exposed to Human Immunodeficiency Virus infection.
PrEP is approved by the Food & Drug Association and has been shown to be safe and effective at preventing HIV infection.
HIV – Human Immunodeficiency Virus – is a deadly virus that targets and alters the immune system. HIV destroys the white blood cells (WBCs) in the body that protect against grave infectious diseases and foreign invaders.
Once the body is infected with HIV, it increases the risk and impact of other diseases and infections. There is no cure for HIV, so medications like PrEP are incredibly important in reducing the spread of HIV.
How Does PrEP Work?
PrEP is an HIV medication used by people who are HIV-negative in order to reduce their risk of HIV infection.
When taken as prescribed, PrEP ensures there is enough HIV medication in the body to significantly reduce the risk of becoming infected with HIV if exposed during unprotected sex.
It is not a vaccine, and only provides protection from HIV as long as you continue to take it as prescribed.
There are two major PrEP medications that are approved by the FDA:
How Effective is PrEP?
PrEP is effective, if it is used as prescribed by your physician. Be cautioned that effectiveness of PrEP is greatly reduced if any doses are missed.
It is particularly relevant in the bisexual/gay men and transgender women communities, as HIV has a high transmission rate in these populations.
PrEP also offers protection to people who inject drugs. However, it is not beneficial for people who are already infected with HIV and have other sexually transmitted infections (STI) or pregnancy.
In terms of HIV prevention, PrEP is one of the safest preventative measures you can take.
In general, it is up to 99% effective if used properly.
Short-Term Effects of PrEP
PrEP can cause nausea, that results in feeling of discomfort, uneasiness, and queasiness in the stomach. Sometimes there are feelings to puke as well. However, these side effects will pass after the first few weeks of using PrEP.
Mild headaches may happen after you start taking Truvada for PrEP. In rare cases, these headaches are severe. These will usually subside within a few weeks to a month after your first dose.
Though uncommon, some people experience problems with diarrhoea after taking PrEP.
The discomfort and condition should ideally subside in three to four weeks. If it doesn’t, then immediately see your prescribing doctor.
Longer Term Side Effects of PrEP
Serious and long-term side effects of PrEP are rare. Some of these effects that you might experience include;
If you are taking PrEP, some side-effects could be associated to your liver like dark ‘tea-coloured’ urine, your skin or the white parts of your eyes turning yellow, light coloured stools or loss of appetite.
You need to immediately consult your prescribing medical practitioner, if these side effects continue for longer.
Tenofovir, present in Truvada for PrEP, can increase creatinine and transaminases. These are enzymes related to the kidneys and increase in these enzymes results in impaired kidney function.
Loss of Bone Density
There could be loss of bone mineral density in young men who take them. This can cause bone fractures.
If you have joint and bone conditions like arthritis or osteoporosis, or you are taking some other drugs, it is important that you inform your doctor before commencing on PrEP.
Now you can get the care you need from wherever you are—aka, your couch.
Who Would Benefit From Taking PrEP?
PrEP is beneficial for people who are HIV negative and are at an increased risk for getting infected from sexual activity or injection drug use.
It is beneficial for people who:
- Have an HIV positive sexual partner
- Had vaginal or anal sex in the past 6 months
- Have not been consistently using safety items like a condom
- Have been tested and diagnosed with a Sexually Transmissible Infection (STI) in the past 6 months
PrEP treatment is also recommended for:
- People who take drugs who share syringes, needles and other devices like cookers that are used to inject drugs
- Have an injection partner who is HIV positive or thinks they are
Truvada for PrEP is beneficial to patients who have been prescribed nPEP (non-occupational post-exposure prophylaxis) and;
- have utilized multiple courses of PEP (post-exposure prophylaxis), or
- report continued risk behavior
If you are thinking of conceiving and you have an HIV positive partner, consult your doctor about PrEP if you are not already using it.
PrEP could help safeguard you and your unborn baby from getting the virus infection while you try to conceive, during pregnancy, or while breastfeeding.
Who Would Not Benefit From Taking PrEP?
People who cannot be benefited from taking PrEP include those who:
- Have already been exposed to HIV
- Are infected with other Sexually Transmitted Infections like syphilis or gonorrhea
- Are pregnant and are infected with HIV
Can you get HIV from someone on PrEP?
Yes, you can get HIV from someone on PrEP if that person is having a high quantity of viral load. The risk of getting infected with HIV is extremely low if the person is taking PrEP.
However, PrEP does not safeguard people who are already infected with the virus and does not provide 100% protection.
How do I take Truvada?
Most people take Truvada or Desovy for PrEP as a daily pill.
How long do you have to take Truvada for PrEP before it becomes effective?
If PrEP is taken as prescribed every day, it reaches its maximum protection in blood in twenty-one days, in rectal tissue in about seven days, and in vaginal tissues at about twenty days.
Can someone with HIV start taking PrEP?
No. If you already have HIV infection, then Truvada for PrEP is not beneficial for you because it is meant to reduce your HIV risk before exposure.
What is the risk of getting HIV while on PrEP?
Extremely low. if the person is taking PrEP regularly and as prescribed, it is effective in reducing the risk of getting HIV from sex by about 99%.
Should you still use condoms if you are on PrEP?
Yes. Condoms along with PrEP reduces the risk of picking up other Sexually Transmitted Infections.
What if I miss a dosage of Truvada for PrEP?
If you realize that you have missed a dose, you should not stop taking PrEP. Start again once you remember.
The effectiveness of the drug in the body will likely still be adequate enough to protect you against HIV infection. However, the effectiveness decreases if you miss doses. It’s important to tell your doctor if you miss doses.
How Much Does PrEP Cost?
PrEP With Insurance
In Case of Commercial Insurance
Gilead Advancing Access program (from manufacturers of Truvada ) gives copayment assistance to insured patients who lack financial resources to purchase PrEP on their own. This card offers co-payments for Truvada up to $7,200 per year and there is absolutely no monthly limit. It means $0 co-pay for many.
In Case of People Without Prescription Drug Insurance Coverage
National Program like “Ready, Set, PrEP” offers PrEP medications available at no cost to people without prescription drug insurance coverage.
PrEP without Insurance
PrEP is really expensive. Without insurance, the cost of PrEP can be high.
How Do I Get PrEP?
You can find PrEP from an in-person provider using this PrEP locator.
But there are easier options. Telemedicine has enabled consumers to order PrEP from the comfort of home.
Now you can get the care you need from wherever you are—aka, your couch.
PrEP is one of the most effective treatments — along with condoms — in preventing HIV. Every year, more people are beginning to get on PrEP, which helps individuals as well as the health of the broader population
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Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP). Accessed March 21, 2020. ttps://www.cdc.gov/hiv/risk/prep/index.html.
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Prepster. Prep FAQs. Accessed March 21, 2020. https://prepster.info/prep-faqs/.
WebMD. FAQ: Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) for HIV. Accessed March 21, 2020. https://www.webmd.com/hiv-aids/prep-faq-preexposure-prophylaxis#1.