Want to learn more about PrEP, the daily pill that prevents you from contracting HIV? Check out these commonly asked questions about PrEP — including how you can get it yourself. Even if PrEP isn’t right for you, we hope you’ll feel empowered after learning more about your sexual health.
EVERYTHING YOU WANTED TO KNOW ABOUT PREP
WHAT IS PREP?
PrEP stands for “pre-exposure prophylaxis,” but we like to think it stands for “PrEPared for sex.” Its brand name is Truvada. PrEP is a pill you take daily that lowers your chances of getting HIV through sex by more than 90%. And if you inject drugs, it lowers your chances by 70%.
IS PREP RIGHT FOR ME?
PrEP is for people who are HIV negative and vulnerable to getting HIV. You might be thinking, “But aren’t all sexually active people vulnerable to getting HIV?” You’re right!
However, some people are more at risk than others.
If you’re not sure whether or not PrEP is the right choice for you, check out this simple web survey and talk to your doctor or a clinician.
IS PREP SAFE? ARE THERE ANY SIDE EFFECTS?
PrEP is very safe, and no significant health effects have been reported. But, like with any drug, you may have some unpleasant side effects, like nausea, dizziness and fatigue. You can read more about the potential side effects of PrEP on the CDC’s PrEP page.
CAN WOMEN TAKE PrEP?
Yes. PrEP works for all women, including pregnant women.
HOW DO I GET PrEP?
The DC Health and Wellness Center now offers 100% virtual services to get you on PrEP! DC’s new TelePrEP program is fast, easy, and confidential. Our services offer a virtual consultation with a medical provider, an at-home lab-test, a prescription by mail, and more. Check here for more information or call 202-741-7692 to get started.
The DC Health and Wellness Center also offers in-person consultations or a mix of virtual and in-person consultations for PrEP. In-person services are offered Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. Call 202-741-7692 for more information.
Your Healthcare Provider
If you have a regular healthcare provider, your best bet is to talk to them and see about getting a prescription. But if you don’t have a regular healthcare provider — or you feel weird talking to them about this issue — use our PrEP map to find providers who prescribe PrEP in your area.
And when it comes to paying for PrEP, most insurance plans cover it. But if you don’t have insurance, there are PrEP assistance programs that will help you cover the cost. And the DC Health and Wellness Center is here to help with both cost and access.
IF I TAKE PREP, CAN I STOP USING CONDOMS WHEN I HAVE SEX?
You could if you wanted to — but you won’t be protected from other STDs, like gonorrhea, chlamydia, syphilis, herpes, and HPV. Only condoms can do that, and we’ll get you them for free!
(It also doesn’t protect against pregnancy, which you probably figured out. But we thought we’d include it, just in case.)
HOW DO I TALK TO MY PARTNER(S) ABOUT PREP AND HIV?
Look, we know: Talking about STDs is never fun. No one wants to think they might be exposed to HIV, but we all know it’s possible. And if PrEP is an important part of you being a healthy sexual being, it’s worth pushing through the awkward and having the conversation.
Here are some conversation starters to help you get started:
“I heard about this new pill that is 90% effective at preventing HIV. It’s called PrEP. Have you heard of it?”
“Hey, did you know [OUR FRIEND’S NAME] just started taking PrEP? I think that’s so awesome.”
“My doctor told me about a new drug called Truvada that’s safe and super effective for preventing HIV. He said maybe we’d be interested in going on it. What do you think?”
If you want more pointers about talking to your partner(s) about PrEP, check out these recommendations from the CDC.
WHEN DOES PREP START WORKING?
People who have anal sex need to take PrEP consistently for seven to 14 days before they have sex. That’s how long it takes to show up in rectal tissue. And people who have vaginas need to take PrEP consistently for 20 days before having sex. That’s because — you guessed it — that’s how long it takes to show up in vaginal tissue.