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Fact Checked

“Ready, Set, PrEP” – Fight HIV with One Pill a Day

More than 1.1 million people are currently living with HIV in America, and millions are at risk of getting HIV. The department of Health and Human Services (HHS) launched the nationwide program “Ready, Set, PrEP” that makes HIV preexposure prophylaxis (PrEP) medications available at no cost for people without prescription drug insurance. 

HHS developed a plan called Ending the HIV Epidemic in hopes of decreasing new HIV infections by 90% in America by 2030. The only way to know for sure if you have HIV is to get tested; you cannot rely on symptoms to tell if you have HIV. 

To find a place near you that offers HIV testing, visit gettested.cdc.gov or call 1-800-CDC-INFO

“Ready, Set, PrEP” plays a key role in the HHS plan because it will increase access to HIV prevention medication, allowing people who are at risk for HIV to protect themselves and their communities. 

Who Should Take PrEP? 

PrEP is recommended for individuals who are HIV-negative and any of the following apply

Gay/Bisexual Men plus

Heterosexuals plus

Inject Drugs plus

An HIV-positive partner

At risk for HIV from sex

 

Multiple partners

Share the following to inject drugs: 

• Needles

• Syringes

• Other equipment

 

A partner with multiple partners

 

 

A partner whose HIV-status is unknown and you

• Have anal sex without a condom, or

• Recently had a sexually transmitted infection

A partner whose HIV status is unknown and

• Condoms are not always used for sex with people who inject drugs, or for sex with bisexual men

 

Adapted from Centers for Disease Control & Prevention

 

 

According to CDC reports, several studies have shown PrEP reduces the risk of getting HIV from sex by 99% when taken daily. PrEP also helps decrease the risk of HIV infection by 74% among people who inject drugs when taken daily. The efficacy of PrEP is a lot less when it is not taken consistently as prescribed. 

PrEP also does not protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs) such as syphilis, chlamydia, and gonorrhea. Condoms are always recommended to prevent sexually transmitted infections. 

PrEP Medications 

Two medications are FDA-approved for PrEP: Truvada and Descovy.  

Truvada combines two medications in one: Emtriva (also called emtricitabine) and Viread (also called tenofovir disoproxil fumarate). 

Descovy was approved in 2019 for PrEP. Descovy also combines two medications in one: Emtiva and Vemlidy (also called tenofovir alafenamide) 

  • • Descovy is not for everyone: people assigned female at birth who are at risk of getting HIV through vaginal sex should not use Descovy. 

PrEP medications offer maximum protection from HIV after 7 days of daily use for receptive anal sex and 21 days of daily use for receptive vaginal sex and injection drug use. Presently, no data is available for length of time for maximum protection for insertive anal or insertive vaginal sex. 

Most people taking PrEP experience little or no side effects; however, common side effects may include headache, upset stomach, and weight loss. If you do experience side effects, they usually go away within the first month. Report any side effects (especially if severe) to your healthcare provider when taking PrEP.  

If you forget to take a dose, take your pill as soon as you remember and continue your daily schedule. Do NOT take two doses together to “try and catch up”. It is unlikely that missing a single-dose of PrEP will significantly affect your defense against HIV. However, taking it consistently and minimizing missed doses will provide you the greatest protection against contracting HIV. If you are having trouble remembering to take your medication daily please contact your healthcare provider. 

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How Can I Get PrEP?

You must visit your healthcare provider to determine if PrEP is right for you. If you do not currently have a healthcare provider, you can find one who sees patients for PrEP at locator.hiv.gov.

The majority of private and sate Medicaid plans already cover PrEP. If you have health insurance and the copay for your medication is not affordable you can reach out to the drug manufacture and advocacy foundations for information on copay assistance programs that you may qualify for. 

To qualify for the “Ready, Set, PrEP” program, you must: 

  • Test negative for HIV 
  • Have a prescription for PrEP medications from your healthcare provider
  • Have no health insurance coverage for prescription drugs 

After qualifying for the program: 

  • Visit GetYourPrEP.com or call toll-free 855-447-8410 to enroll 
  • Fill your prescription at participating pharmacies or mail order 
  • You must meet with a provider every 3 months to get re-tested for HIV 

Remember taking PrEP regularly once a day is the best way to decrease your chances of getting HIV (Undetectable = Untransmittable)!

Let’s end the HIV epidemic together. 

References: 

Published July 19th, 2020 by Dr. Miriam Opara, PharmD
Fact Checked by Chris Riley

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