Pre-exposure prophylaxis, commonly known as PrEP, is a form of medical treatment that involves taking a pill every day to prevent you from contracting HIV if you suspect you had sex with someone who has the virus.
PrEP isn’t meant to be an alternative to using condoms or other forms of protection from STDs. Instead, it’s meant to be used in conjunction with those other protection methods to provide an extra layer of safety against HIV infection during sex.
Learn everything you need to know about PrEP, including how the medicine helps with sexual health, types of PrEP, tests done before taking PrEP, how the medicine applies to non-binary healthcare, PrEP testing for gay guys, and much more.
Types of PrEP
Truvada and Descovy are the only two medications (PrEP) approved for use as a preventative measure for HIV infection. Every person whose health is jeopardized by sex or injection drug use needs to take Truvada.
Descovy can also help prevent HIV infection in people, except for people born female who is at risk of contracting HIV through vaginal sex.
Here’s a comparison of Truvada and Descovy:
Differences Between Truvada and Descovy
Truvada should be avoided by anyone with kidney problems or a strong family history of kidney disease. If you have a history of kidney disease or are concerned about your health, Descovy may be a better option for you.
While Descovy may cause weight gain, Truvada may cause some weight loss.
Truvada may reduce total cholesterol, whereas Descovy may increase LDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
A Truvada pill is also larger than a Descovy pill.
Everyone can benefit from Truvada, including:
- Addicts who take drugs through injections
- Transgender individuals
- Cis men who are openly gay or bisexual
- Cis females
Only transwomen, gay, and bisexual cis men can benefit from Descovy.
Similarities between Truvada and Descovy
At about $2,000 per month without insurance, both Truvada and Decovy have almost the same price.
Truvada and Decovy are covered by insurance and assistance programs.
As a whole, both medicines have a low rate of side effects. However, some people may experience "start-up" symptoms like diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting. Both pills are >99% effective.
How do I know if I should get on PrEP?
If you have tested negative for HIV and any of the following applies to you, then PrEP may be a good option for you:
- A sexual partner with HIV (especially if the partner has an unknown or detectable viral load) hasn't consistently used a condom or has been diagnosed with an STD in the past six months.
- Hade sex with someone of unknown HIV status.
- You share needles, syringes, or other injection equipment with an injection partner infected with HIV (for example, cookers).
- Following an exposure, your doctor has prescribed PEP (post-exposure prophylaxis).
- Continued risky behavior, or multiple courses of PEP, have been reported.
Dating platforms and apps, including gay dating sites, are great because they allow us to meet different people and start relationships. But remember, these platforms may expose our risks for STIs and other infections.
Make sure you and your partner get tested before intercourse and use protection and PrEP to prevent the spread of HIV and other STDs.
Medical testing before taking PrEP
People living with HIV and other conditions may not be eligible for PrEP or may only take a specific type of PrEP. With that, your doctor will first perform an HIV test.
You can also do at-home testing (DTC testing) using HIV self kits to determine your status. Alternatively, you can contact telehealth platforms, such as Juna, if you need professional at-home STI testing.
Your doctor will also do hepatitis B and hepatitis C, kidney function, liver, and/or pregnancy tests.
How long will I be on pre-exposure prophylaxis? When to stop
PrEP reaches maximum protection from HIV for bottoming (receptive anal sex) at seven days of daily use. On average, after 21 days of everyday use, both receptive and injectable PrEP provide the best protection against HIV transmission.
Insertive anal sex (topping) and insertive vaginal sex have no data.
Where to get PrEP
If you’re interested in using PrEP, talk with your doctor first. That means having an open conversation about why you want to use it, how often you plan to take it, and what risks you’re willing to take.
Consider visiting a Voluntary Counselling and Testing (VCT) for HIV center.
These clinics offer free, anonymous testing and information about safe sex practices. It’s important to note that VCT centers do not provide PrEP, but they can tell you where you can get it.
If you have private health insurance, check with your provider about coverage for PrEP. But if you don’t have insurance or your policy doesn’t cover it, options are still available. Just consult with your doctor.
You can get PrEP from Planned Parenthood Centers, local health departments, and your doctor's office.
At Juna, we provide PrEP kits and medication through your insurance provider at the convenience of your own home. Our PrEP kits will screen HIV, Hep B& C, Syphilis, Chlamydia, Gonorrhea, and Creatinine (kidney test). Schedule a free appointment to get started!
PrEP testing for Gay Men
Like heterosexuals, members of the LGBTQ+ community can be counseled, tested, and get PrEP, as mentioned above.
Additionally, several gay dating sites also promote HIV prevention education and endorse HIV prevention medications and strategies. These sites allow users to access information on PreP, find a doctor near them, and connect with others using PreP through individual posts.
Use PrEP today to prevent the risk of contracting HIV.