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Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP)

Daily PrEP to Prevent HIV

PrEP − Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis is a daily pill that can help you stay HIV-negative. The medicines in PrEP can protect you before you might be exposed to HIV.

The Basics

  • Consider PrEP. PrEP is for HIV-negative people who are at risk of being exposed to HIV through sex or injecting drugs and who are ready to take a daily pill.
  • Talk to Your Doctor. You need to speak with a doctor or nurse before you start using PrEP. Your doctor or nurse can help you decide if PrEP is right for you. These clinics can help you get PrEP.
  • Take PrEP Every Day. PrEP is taken daily in pill form. Do not skip a dose. PrEP works much better at stopping HIV if you take it every day.
  • Use Condoms. Even if you take PrEP daily, condoms give you additional protection against HIV, other sexually transmitted infections, and unintended pregnancy.
  • Know the Common Side Effects. PrEP can have mild side effects, like stomach pain, weight loss and headaches, especially at the beginning of treatment. PrEP may not be right for everyone. Talk to your doctor.
  • Find Out about Paying for PrEP. Many insurance plans including Medicaid cover PrEP. Assistance may be available if you are uninsured.
  • Know about PEP. PrEP is not an emergency medication. If you think you were recently exposed to HIV, you may need emergency PEP.
How does PrEP stop HIV?

PrEP contains the same medicines that people with HIV use to stay healthy. If you are exposed to HIV, these medicines can stop the virus from multiplying and spreading throughout your body. PrEP only works if you have enough medicine in your body, so you need to take PrEP every day.

Should I consider taking PrEP?

PrEP is for people who are HIV-negative, have a high risk of being exposed to HIV through sex or drug injection, and are ready to take a daily pill.

Studies have shown that PrEP works for sexually-active gay and bisexual men, heterosexual women and men, and injection drug users, and is also likely to benefit transgender women. PrEP can help protect anyone whose partner has HIV.

How do I take PrEP?

PrEP is prescribed by a doctor or nurse. You should take PrEP exactly as prescribed. With PrEP, you take a pill once a day, even on the days you don’t have sex or inject drugs.

The only medication currently approved for PrEP is Truvada®, a combination pill that contains two different medicines: emtricitabine (Emtriva®) and tenofovir (Viread®).

PrEP only works if you are HIV-negative.

  • Before you start PrEP, you take an HIV test to make sure that you do not have HIV. You also have a check-up to make sure your kidneys and liver are healthy.
  • While you are on PrEP, your doctor or nurse will test you regularly for HIV and other sexually transmitted infections. They will also ask you about your HIV risk and whether you are taking PrEP every day.

PrEP can help you stay HIV-negative when your risk of HIV exposure is high. You may decide to stop taking this medication if your risk changes. But do not stop taking PrEP without first talking to your doctor. Also, tell your doctor if you are thinking about becoming pregnant or if you become pregnant while on PrEP.

Is PrEP safe? What are the side effects?

PrEP is safe. The pill used for PrEP, Truvada®, has been used to treat people with HIV since 2004.

PrEP can cause mild side effects, including upset stomach, headaches and weight loss, especially at the beginning of treatment. Rare side effects include kidney or bone problems. Your doctor or nurse can help if side effects are bothering you.

How well does PrEP work?

PrEP is not 100% effective. You can still get HIV, especially if you do not have not enough medicine in your body. In different studies, people taking PrEP were 44% to 75% less likely to get HIV than comparison groups, and people who took PrEP consistently were up to 92% less likely to get HIV.

Can I take PrEP only on the days when I have sex?

No. You must take PrEP every day to keep enough medicine in your body to protect you from HIV.

If I take PrEP, do I still have to use condoms?

PrEP does not provide 100% protection against HIV. Condoms provide additional protection against HIV, even while you take PrEP. Condoms also protect against other sexually transmitted infections and prevent unintended pregnancy.

For greater protection against HIV, combine PrEP with other ways to reduce HIV risk.

Where Can I Get PrEP in New York City?

Talk to your regular doctor or nurse or visit one of the many clinics with experience providing PrEP all over New York City.

How do I pay for PrEP?

In New York State, PrEP is covered by Medicaid and many private health insurance and prescription plans.

If you do not have health insurance, you may be eligible for a patient assistance program to help uninsured patients pay for PrEP. Your doctor or nurse can help you apply.

How else can I stay HIV-negative?
  • Use Condoms. Find the size and type of condom you like. Condoms are available for free in all five boroughs of New York City
  • Use Lube. Use water-based or silicone-based lubricant, especially during anal sex.  
  • Get Tested. It’s the only way to know if you or a partner has HIV.
  • Get Checked for Other Sexually Transmitted Infections. STIs can make it easier to get or spread HIV.
  • Talk to Your Partners About Testing. Ask your sex partners about the last time they had an HIV test. To be sure, get tested together.
  • Support Your Partners Living With HIV. If your partner is living with HIV, encourage him or her to get HIV care and take his or her medications every day. This will help your partner stay healthy and reduce his or her chance of passing HIV to you.
  • Avoid Alcohol and Drugs When You Have Sex. Drinking or getting high when you have sex can make it hard to remember to use condoms. For help to stop using, call 800-LIFENET (800-543-3638).
  • Use Clean Syringes. If you inject drugs, and are not ready to stop, use a new, clean syringe every time. Clean syringes are available for free all over New York City.
  • Know About Emergency PEP. If you are not taking PrEP and think you were recently exposed to HIV, go immediately to your doctor or an emergency room and ask for PEP, an emergency medication that can prevent HIV.