You’ve heard it mentioned and may even know people taking it, but when it comes to preventing HIV with PrEP, do you have your facts straight?
BY SCOTT A. KRAMER, LCSW-R
Nowadays, it seems like everyone is talking about PrEP. The protocol involves taking a medication once primarily used in the treatment of HIV, but since 2012, people who are not HIV positive can take a daily dose of it to help prevent the transmission of HIV.
Since the discovery of HIV, we have had very few preventative measures at our disposal: primarily avoiding the exchange of sexual fluids through proper condom use or abstinence. It seems almost hard to believe that now — after 30 years — taking a little blue pill each day can do so much to protect us, but the CDC says that ”when taken consistently, PrEP has been shown to reduce the risk of HIV infection in people who are at high risk by up to 92%.” But there’s still a lot of misinformation out there, so let’s examine some notable myths about PrEP:
- “It’s not covered by insurance.” PrEP is covered by virtually all insurances. The cost varies, but the medication’s makers offer a payment assistance plan that can make it less expensive or sometimes free.
- “It’s a new drug; we don’t know how it will affect us in the long term.” Since the drug has been used as part of HIV regimens since 2004, its usage is well documented, and it’s standard to check in with your doctor every three months while on PrEP.
- “I’d just end up having sex with more guys.” Studies show that behavior doesn’t actually change much when people start taking PrEP.
- “People are on PrEP just to bareback.” Some people may be, but it’s recommended you continue using condoms with PrEP to protect against other STIs.
- “PrEP has unpleasant side effects.” Side effects (e.g., headaches, gastrointestinal issues and fatigue) are generally mild and go away after a few weeks.
- “It’s for people who think they have HIV.” PrEP is only for people who are HIV negative. In order to get a prescription, you must first take an HIV test.
- “Once you start PrEP you can never stop.” PrEP can be taken for periods of time, then stopped, and even started again. It’s important to remember, though, that when you are taking it, you must take it daily and consistently for it to be effective protection against HIV infection.
Last modified: August 3, 2015