What is Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP)?
- PrEP is a way for people who don’t have HIV to prevent HIV infection by taking a pill every day
- “PrEP” stands for Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis. The word “prophylaxis” means “to prevent or control the spread of an infection or disease”
- Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (or PrEP) is when people at very high risk for HIV take HIV medicines daily to lower their chances of getting infected
- A combination of two HIV medicines (tenofovir and emtricitabine) is approved for daily use as PrEP to help prevent an HIV-negative person from getting HIV from a sexual or injection-drug-using partner who’s positive
- Studies have shown that PrEP is highly effective for preventing HIV if it is used as prescribed. PrEP is much less effective when it is not taken consistently
How does PrEP work?
- PrEP is a pill that contains medicines that are also used to treat HIV.
- If you take PrEP and are exposed to HIV through sex or needle-sharing, these medicines can work to keep the virus from taking hold in your body.
- When taken as prescribed, PrEP can effectively prevent HIV. PrEP does not protect against other STDs.
- You must take PrEP as prescribed, for it to reduce your risk of becoming infected with HIV. This may mean taking PrEP daily, or “on demand”, as directed by your doctor.
- To learn more about PrEP “on demand”, please visit cdc.gov/hiv/basics/prep/on-demand-prep
Is PrEP Right for Me?
- 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. If you regularly worry about HIV, ask your doctor if PrEP may be right for you
Is PrEP Safe?
- Most adults can safely use PrEP, but a doctor will need to determine if there is any reason why you should not take it. PrEP is only for people who are HIV negative
- With any medication there may be minor side effects. Some people get an upset stomach when they first start taking PrEP
How is my PrEP prescription paid for?
- PrEP is covered by public (e.g. Medi-Cal, Medi-Care) and private (e.g. Kaiser, HealthNet) health insurance plans.
- PrEP coverage for almost all health insurance plans includes coverage for PrEP (the HIV prevention pill) with no co pay. This means that people with insurance would not have to pay for the drug itself, for clinic visits, or lab tests associated with PrEP.
- If you do not have or are not eligible for health insurance, PrEP is still available at low or no cost.
- The PrEP Assistance Program (PrEP AP) is the State of California’s assistance program for the prevention of HIV. It may cover things like co-pays for PrEP medications and other out of pocket costs related to medical services, such as HIV testing and STI screening. To learn more about PrEP AP, please visit: pleasePrEPme.org/ca-prep-ap
How do I find a doctor who will prescribe PrEP?
- Any provider who is able to write prescriptions can prescribe PrEP.
- If you have a provider that you see regularly, talk to them about prescribing PrEP.
- If you do not currently have a doctor, you can find one here: pleasePrEPme.org
- Please note that the inclusion of medical providers in this directory is voluntary and it does not serve as an endorsement or certification by the County of Los Angeles Department of Public Health.
I Have a Doctor, What do I Need to Know?
- If you are interested in speaking with a doctor to see if PrEP is right for you, try speaking with your primary care doctor first. Check out these tips on talking to your doctor.
- If you wish to see a different doctor, you can find one here: pleasePrEPme.org.
Can I start taking PrEP before seeing a doctor?
- Under California’s new law, Senate Bill 159, pharmacists are authorized to dispense PrEP and PEP without a prescription, this allows them to administer 30 to 60 days of the drugs after testing and counseling. In addition, the law directs pharmacists to connect individuals to physicians for long-term care.
What Else do I Need to Know?
- You’ll need to get an HIV test before starting PrEP
- People who use PrEP to stay HIV negative must be able to take the medication (one pill) every day
- While you are on PrEP, you will need to see a health care provider for regular check-ups (every 3 months) for repeat HIV and STD screenings, lab tests, and prescription refills
- Condoms provide additional protection against HIV and other STDs and unintended pregnancy. If you live in Los Angeles County and would like to have free condoms mailed to you, please visit our LA Condom website