Steps to PrEP: A Beginner’s Guide to Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis

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By Intern Chance Herbert, age 20

If you have tuned in to the radio, television, or social media, you may have come across advertisements for “Descovy” or “Truvada.” If not, that is totally fine, because today we’re going to talk about what these two approved forms of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) are and additional information that may be unclear about PrEP when watching these ads.

 

“So what exactly is PrEP and is it right for me?”

PrEP is a pill taken daily by somebody that is HIV negative and can effectively lower an individual’s chance of getting HIV by over 90% if taken as prescribed. It is important to understand what HIV is and how it can be contracted and consider your own risk for contracting the virus. There are multiple reasons why someone may choose to get on PrEP to lower their risk of contracting HIV, including but not limited to:

  • Having a sexual partner with an unknown HIV status or one that is living with HIV, especially when the partner's viral load is detectable or unknown
  • Having anal or vaginal sex with multiple partners, especially if one has an inconsistent use of condoms 
  • Being diagnosed with a sexually transmitted infection (STI) in the past six months, such as chlamydia, gonorrhea, or syphilis.
  • Having a history of injection drug use

 

“That’s great, but where can I get PrEP?”

To get PrEP, you need to see a provider, which is an umbrella term for those capable of prescribing medications like PrEP. Generally, you can be prescribed PrEP by medical doctors, PAs, and some nurse practitioners. It is best to find somebody with good experience in prescribing PrEP, so do your research before making an appointment. Keep in mind that some providers in California may offer PrEP to youth at no or low costs. Some great resources for finding a provider are listed below:

 

If going in for your first time to ask about PrEP, you may have a few questions. It is good to do some research on what to expect and how to have a talk about PrEP with your provider during your visit. 

 

“What else can I do to minimize my risk of contracting HIV and other STIs?”

Utilizing condoms is a highly effective method of minimizing the risk of contracting sexually transmitted infections and should be used in combination with PrEP to reduce your risk of contracting HIV and other STIs. It is important to remember that PrEP alone does not protect against STIs such as chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis. If you are between the ages of 12 and 19 years old and live in California, you may have the option to get condoms mailed to you through our Condom Access Program (CAP) and anyone has the option to find free condoms near them, which can be found here