By Intern Chance Herbert, age 20
You may have heard about pre-exposure prophylaxis before or its shortened, more common name of PrEP. If not, that is totally okay too. PrEP is a daily pill that can be taken by somebody that is HIV negative to effectively lower their chance of getting HIV by over 90% when taken as prescribed. Depending on your level of familiarity, you might still have questions, so please feel free to check out our Steps to PrEP: A Beginner’s Guide to Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis and What is PrEP and PEP? if this applies to you. Depending on your circumstances, you may also wish to talk to your provider about PrEP, a process which may be unfamiliar to you. If so, this blog is for you.
“How do I have the PrEP talk?”
You might have worries going in for your first time to talk about PrEP, and you are not alone. Discussing sexual and reproductive health with a provider may be uncomfortable, but it’s an important part of taking care of your body and health. When you go in for your first time to ask a provider about PrEP, being prepared for what to expect may alleviate some of your worries. A few common things to familiarize yourself with before your visit are listed below:
- The Medical History Questionnaire: Often, clinics will want to get a comprehensive look into your medical history. Be prepared to encounter a series of questions potentially regarding any medications, illnesses, allergies, etc., to conduct a thorough evaluation of your health, which is required to get and stay on PrEP. You can also expect questions regarding your sexual history when taking the questionnaire or speaking with your provider. Coming prepared to your appointment with this information may be helpful.
- Insurance: Knowing what type of coverage you have is a great practice that helps avoid paying fees out of pocket for any medical service you may receive.
- If you are insured, your plan likely assures that you cannot be charged out of pocket for medication or any required services for being prescribed PrEP under the Affordable Care Act. This includes any clinic visits and lab tests necessary to obtain and maintain your PrEP prescription. If you have any questions about your coverage, don’t be afraid to ask questions before and during your visit.
- If you do not have insurance or Medi-Cal coverage, you may be able to qualify for resources that cover costs associated with being prescribed PrEP. While everybody’s circumstances are unique, some great resources for understanding your coverage are CDC guidelines for uninsured people as well as Get PrEP LA’s insurance options resource page for those residing in the state of California.
- Last but not least, having the PrEP talk with providers and parents: So now that you're an expert on PrEP, you are ready to have the talk with your doctor. This is the part that rarely gets shown in commercials, often misrepresented with an upbeat melody and wide-grinned paid actors. In all reality, speaking to a doctor or any provider can be an intimidating experience in itself, and it can sometimes be difficult when seeking services specifically related to PrEP. When you go in for your visit, it is crucial that you feel comfortable talking to your doctor and that they are receptive to your questions and concerns. If they are not, advocate for yourself and find a clinic and provider that you are comfortable with. That being said, it is also not a bad idea to come in with a set of questions that you may like answers to. Some example questions include:
- “What behaviors put me at a higher risk for HIV and what options do have to protect myself against HIV and other STIs?”
- “What are the differences between Truvada and Descovy, and would these be safe for my body?”
- “What is required to obtain a PrEP prescription?”
- “I read that I am entitled to full coverage for costs associated with PrEP. Is this true?”
Depending on your circumstances, you may wish to speak to your parents about PrEP, which can have its own set of challenges. Luckily, we have some great tips for navigating this! Ultimately, remember that you are in control of what information you disclose and that taking the time to learn about and ask your healthcare provider about pre-exposure prophylaxis is an important step in taking care of your body.