Q: I’m a 27-year-old gay man and I’m considering whether to take PrEP or not. What factors should I consider in making my decision? And isn’t it pricey?
A: Anyone who wants to minimize their risk of getting HIV may be a candidate, but there are several factors to consider when deciding if pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) is right for you. Since PrEP requires a daily pill, called Truvada, it’s important that you are willing and able to stick to a routine. PrEP must be taken consistently. PrEP is still effective if a day is missed, however the level of HIV protection may decrease, so you must be committed to adhering to the daily schedule.
PrEP may be beneficial if any of the following classifications describe you:
- have a relationship with an HIV-positive partner
- have more than one sexual partner or are in an open relationship
- are unaware of a partner’s HIV status
- infrequently use condoms
- have been diagnosed with a sexually transmitted illness (STI) in the past year
- have participated in sex work
- have had to take post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) for HIV in the past year
- are currently an intravenous drug user
It’s important to note that PrEP does not begin to work immediately. PrEP needs to be taken daily for at least seven days for men and upwards of three weeks for women.
Side effects are typically minimal, but occasionally include nausea, fatigue and dizziness. PrEP will not protect you from other STIs such as syphilis, gonorrhea or chlamydia, so it is recommended that PrEP be combined with condom use.
PrEP is covered by most insurance plans. Some companies may require a pre-authorization to determine if you are eligible. For those without insurance coverage, Gilead, the drug company that produces Truvada, has a very liberal and generous patient assistance program.
When taken every day, PrEP has been shown to reduce the risk of HIV infection in people who are at elevated risk by more than 90 percent. Based on the above, if you feel you may be a suitable candidate for PrEP and are interested in learning more, please make an appointment. If you schedule a visit with one of AbsoluteCARE’s experienced PrEP providers, we’ll discuss your health history and goals, what to expect while on PrEP, share information about Truvada, take baseline labs (including an STI screening and complete metabolic panels) and provide safer sex counseling. We’ll then expect to meet with you quarterly to do follow-up lab work and continue health education and counseling.
Jewel Sawyer, PA-C, MSHS, AAHIVS
AbsoluteCARE Medical Center & Pharmacy
Ask The Doctor is a monthly health column where the experts at AbsoluteCARE answer your pressing medical questions. Have a question you want answered? Email it to email@example.com!