PrEP is a tablet you can take to help protect yourself from becoming HIV-positive. If you don’t already have HIV, then there’s a good chance that you can use PrEP. You can take PrEP in different ways but not all of them are suitable for everyone.
What is PrEP?
PrEP stands for pre-exposure prophylaxis, meaning it’s a medication that you need to take both before and after having unprotected sex to prevent yourself from being infected by HIV. PrEP is very effective at preventing HIV infections, but it doesn’t protect you from other illnesses, and it doesn’t prevent pregnancy. A lot of people use PrEP together with other preventatives, like condoms, to provide added security.
There are two different types of PrEP, commonly referred to as Truvada and Descovy. Both are effective at preventing HIV infection, but they work in slightly different ways, which can affect how you take them.
For more questions about PrEP, check out these FAQs from the team at Prepster.
How can I use PrEP?
Before starting PrEP you need to get a kidney function test to ensure that your kidneys are healthy.
There are two main ways to take PrEP. The first is daily PrEP, and the second is known as event-based or on-demand PrEP. If used correctly, they are both equally effective at preventing HIV. Based on current scientific evidence, more people can use daily PrEP than event-based PrEP because it provides more long-lasting protection.
According to current guidance, you can use event-based PrEP if you are a man having anal sex with another man (this can include trans-men, although the evidence to support this is limited). If you’re having vaginal/frontal sex then you’ll need daily PrEP. The effects of feminising hormones on PrEP mean that trans-women should also use daily PrEP.
Event-based PrEP is most useful if you have sex less often, so don’t need protection every day. You also need to be able to predict when you’re going to have sex, because you need to take your first (double) dose at least two hours before. If you have a lot of sex, then daily PrEP is probably the easier option.
However you take PrEP, you need to keep taking it for several days after the last time you had sex to make sure you stay protected.
Keeping track of when you need to take PrEP can be a challenge. We made the Preptrack app to help you manage PrEP and access sexual health information on the go.
Where can I get PrEP?
You can typically access PrEP through sexual health clinics. PrEP is available free on the NHS from sexual health clinics.
Find out more with the Terrence Higgins Trust.