PrEP (Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis)
If you are HIV-negative, but at-risk for acquiring HIV-infection, you may be interested in receiving PrEP at the STAR Health Center. PrEP, which stands for Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis, is a way to prevent HIV infection in people who do NOT have HIV, by taking a pill every single day. For an appointment, call 347-909-1680.
What Is PrEP?
PrEP stands for Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis. PrEP is a way to prevent HIV infection in people who do NOT have HIV, by taking a pill every single day. The brand name of the pill is TRUVADA®.
Who Can Take PrEP?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene have identified specific groups of people who may be offered PrEP. These groups include:
- Anyone who is an ongoing sexual partner of an HIV-infected person
- Gay or bisexual men who have had unprotected anal sex or a sexually transmitted infection (STI) heterosexual men or women who do not use condoms regularly with partners who are at substantial risk for HIV infection
- People who have injected drugs in the past 6 months and share injection drug equipment or have been in treatment for injection drug use
- Male-to-female and female-to-male transgender individuals engaging in unprotected sex or who share injection equipment for hormones
- Anyone engaging in commercial sex work anyone who uses stimulants like crystal meth, poppers, cocaine, & ecstasy
- Anyone who has used emergency post-exposure prophylaxis
Does PrEP Work?
The studies done to date show that you can reduce your chance of HIV infection by 92% if you take the pill every day as prescribed. In order for PrEP to work, you should take the pill daily as prescribed by your doctor.
Does PrEP Have Side-Effects?
The most common side effects reported are nausea, weight loss, and loss of appetite, but these usually go away after the first week. If these persist, please talk to your doctor.
How Do I Pay For PrEP?
Most insurances pay for PrEP, but may require special permission (called a prior authorization) that your doctor will have to get. This can be done at your doctor visit. Also, if you do not have insurance but make 500% of the federal poverty threshold, you may qualify for aid thru a specific program available to uninsured persons.
How Often Do I Need To See The Doctor?
You should see the doctor every 3 months to have HIV testing done and see how the medication is working. This may include other bloodwork and STI testing.
Can I Stop Using Condoms If I Take PrEP?
Condoms will always be recommended, and should be used in combination with PrEP to protect you against other STIs. PrEP does not protect you from gonorrhea, chlamydia, syphilis or any other STI.
PEP (Post-Exposure Prophylaxis)
If you are HIV-negative, but have potentially been exposed to HIV, you may be interested in receiving Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP) at the STAR Health Center. PEP is a way to prevent HIV infection in people who do NOT have HIV, by taking medications for 28 days. For an appointment, call 347-909-1680.
What Is PEP?
PEP stands for post-exposure prophylaxis. It means taking antiretroviral medicines (ART) after being potentially exposed to HIV to prevent becoming infected. PEP must be started within 72 hours after a recent possible exposure to HIV, but the sooner you start PEP, the better. Every hour counts. If you’re prescribed PEP, you’ll need to take it once or twice daily for 28 days. PEP is effective in preventing HIV when administered correctly, but not 100%.
Who Can Take PEP?
If you’re HIV-negative or don’t know your HIV status, and in the last 72 hours you:
- think you may have been exposed to HIV during sex (for example, if the condom broke);
- shared needles and works to prepare drugs (for example, cotton, cookers, water); or
- were sexually assaulted;
talk to your health care provider or an emergency room doctor about PEP right away.
PEP should be used only in emergency situations and must be started within 72 hours after a recent possible exposure to HIV. It is not a substitute for regular use of other proven HIV prevention methods, such as pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), which means taking HIV medicines daily to lower your chance of getting infected; using condoms the right way every time you have sex; and using only your own new, sterile needles and works every time you inject.
I’m a health care worker, and I think I’ve been exposed to HIV at work. Should I take PEP?
PEP should be considered if you’ve had a recent possible exposure to HIV at work. Report your exposure to your supervisor, and seek medical attention immediately.
Occupational transmission of HIV to health care workers is extremely rare, and the proper use of safety devices and barriers can help minimize the risk of exposure while caring for patients with HIV.
A health care worker who has a possible exposure should see a doctor or visit an emergency room immediately. PEP must be started within 72 hours after a recent possible exposure to HIV. The sooner, the better; every hour counts.
CDC issued updated guidelines in 2013 for the management of health care worker exposures to HIV and recommendations for PEP.
Clinicians caring for health care workers who’ve had a possible exposure can call the PEPline (1-888-448-4911), which offers around-the-clock advice on managing occupational exposures to HIV, as well as hepatitis B and C. Exposed health care workers may also call the PEPline, but they should seek local medical attention first.
When Should I Take PEP?
PEP must be started within 72 hours after a possible exposure. The sooner you start PEP, the better; every hour counts.
Starting PEP as soon as possible after a potential HIV exposure is important. Research has shown that PEP has little or no effect in preventing HIV infection if it is started later than 72 hours after HIV exposure.
If you’re prescribed PEP, you’ll need to take it once or twice daily for 28 days.
Does PEP Have Any Side Effects?
PEP is safe but may cause side effects like nausea in some people. These side effects can be treated and aren’t life-threatening.
How Can I Pay for PEP?
If you’re prescribed PEP after a sexual assault, you may qualify for partial or total reimbursement for medicines and clinical care costs through the Office for Victims of Crime, funded by the US Department of Justice.
If you’re prescribed PEP for another reason and you cannot get insurance coverage (Medicaid, Medicare, private, or employer-based), your health care provider can apply for free PEP medicines through the medication assistance programs run by the manufacturers. Online applications can be faxed to the company, or some companies have special phone lines. These can be handled urgently in many cases to avoid a delay in getting medicine.
If you’re a health care worker who was exposed to HIV on the job, your workplace health insurance or workers’ compensation will usually pay for PEP.
Can I Take a Round of PEP Every Time I Have Unprotected Sex?
PEP should be used only in emergency situations.
PEP is not the right choice for people who may be exposed to HIV frequently—for example, if you often have sex without a condom with a partner who is HIV-positive. Because PEP is given after a potential exposure to HIV, more drugs and higher doses are needed to block infection than with PrEP, or pre-exposure prophylaxis. PrEP is when people at high risk for HIV take HIV medicines (sold under the brand name Truvada®) daily to lower their chances of getting HIV. If you are at ongoing risk for HIV, speak to your doctor about PrEP. Also, read our Q&As on PrEP above and the CDC’s Q&As on PrEP.
PEP is effective, but not 100%, so you should continue to use condoms with sex partners and safe injection practices while taking PEP. These strategies can protect you from being exposed to HIV again and reduce the chances of transmitting HIV to others if you do become infected while you’re on PEP.