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PrEP basics

What is PrEP?

PrEP, or pre-exposure prophylaxis, is medicine people at risk for HIV take to prevent getting HIV from sex or injection drug use. When taken correctly and consistently, PrEP is up to 99% effective. Among people who inject drugs, it reduces the risk by at least 74% when taken as prescribed.

There are currently three medications available for PrEP: Truvada, Teva, and Descovy. Truvada and Teva (also known as generic PrEP) are safe and effective for cisgender men and women and transwomen. Descovy is safe and effective only for cisgender men and transgender women. In December 2021, a long-acting injectable form of PrEP, Apretude, was approved by the FDA  and will be available soon in the United States.

Are there side effects?

Some people who take PrEP may experience mild side effects, such as nausea, diarrhea, and headaches. These tend to go away quickly. It is important to see your healthcare provider regularly so they can monitor you for all potential side effects and help you stay healthy.

Are PEP and PrEP the same?

PEP, or post-exposure prophylaxis, is medication taken immediately after exposure to HIV (within 72 hours) and continued for 28 days. PrEP, pre-exposure prophylaxis, is medication taken daily before exposure to HIV.

What about condoms?

PrEP only protects against HIV. It does not provide protection against STIs or unintended pregnancy. If you are concerned about STIs or unintended pregnancy, consider using condoms with your partner(s).​

Is PrEP right for me? PrEP may benefit you if you test
negative for HIV and:

  • you have had anal or vaginal sex in the past 6 months, and you:

    • have a sexual partner with HIV (especially if the partner has an unknown or detectable viral load),

    • have not consistently used a condom, or

    • have been diagnosed with an STI in the past 6 months

Or

  • you inject drugs and

    • have an injection partner with HIV, or

    • share needles, syringes, or other injection equipment

Or

  • you’ve been prescribed PEP (post-exposure prophylaxis) and you

    • report continued risk behavior or

    • have used multiple courses of PEP

If you are a woman and have a partner with HIV and are considering getting pregnant, talk to your doctor about PrEP. PrEP may be an option to help protect you and your baby from getting HIV while you try to get pregnant, during pregnancy, or while breastfeeding.