Daily Health

PrEP 101: Everything You Should Know

Have you ever thought, what the heck is PrEP? We’ve got the answer to your questions. PrEP is short for pre-exposure prophylaxis, a daily medication used to prevent HIV (human immunodeficiency virus). If taken correctly, it may reduce the risk of contracting HIV by over 90%.

PrEP may help prevent HIV but does not reduce the risk of contracting other STIs like HPV or syphilis.

PrEP medication helps to stop HIV from reproducing in your bloodstream. This stops HIV from entering cells and replicating in your body when the initial exposure dies. In other words, PrEP prevents HIV from replicating in your body and ensures you remain HIV-negative.

What is PrEP, and how does it work?

PrEP is a medication taken by people who do not have HIV to prevent HIV infection. You can access PrEP through a prescription from a healthcare provider. 

PrEP is a chemical barrier that prevents HIV from replicating in the body, leading it to die out and not take hold in a person’s immune system. Essentially, PrEP works by preventing HIV from reproducing, thereby preventing HIV transmission. PrEP is taken as a pill once a day. 

It is more than 90% effective at preventing HIV infection if taken consistently. PrEP is an essential tool in the fight against HIV. It is especially important for people at high risk of contracting the virus. 

PrEP does not work immediately — it needs to build up in the body before it can provide protection. For anal sex, PrEP needs to be taken for seven days before it is fully effective. For vaginal sex, PrEP needs to be taken for 21 days. 

During this time, it’s essential to take other HIV risk reduction measures like wearing condoms.

These timelines allow the PrEP components to be absorbed by different tissues in the body. Once PrEP has built up in the body, it provides continuous protection as long as it is taken every day. If you stop taking PrEP, the level of protection will decrease over time.

When used correctly, PrEP can help to reduce the rates of new HIV infections dramatically. Talk to your healthcare practitioner about whether it is right for you.

Daily vs on-demand

Daily PrEP is taken every day without missing a dose, and when you use PrEP as intended, it may reduce the risk of contracting HIV by over 90%. When using PrEP on-demand, also known as the 2-1-1 method for the prevention of HIV among MSM (men who have sex with men), an efficiency rate can be expected to be around 86%. It’s important to discuss this option with your healthcare practitioner before making any changes to ensure safety and effectiveness.

Who should consider taking PrEP?

If you are HIV-negative and your risk of contracting HIV is elevated, you should consider taking PrEP. Taking daily PrEP decreases your chances of contracting HIV if your exposure is high.

Here are some scenarios where you may want to consider taking PrEP:

PrEP is used for people at high risk of getting HIV. 

This includes people who have recently been diagnosed with another STD, people who inject drugs, and people who are in a relationship with someone who has HIV. PrEP is used along with other HIV prevention methods, such as condoms, to reduce the risk of getting HIV even further. 

If you are involved in sex work, this increases your chances of getting HIV. And finally, if you have had repeated courses of PEP (Post-Exposure Prophylaxis), you may be at higher risk for getting HIV.

If you are interested in PrEP, talk to your healthcare practitioner about whether it is right for you.

How to get PrEP?

If you think PrEP might be right for you, here's what you need to do to get started:

First, talk to a healthcare practitioner about whether PrEP is right for your health needs. If so, the next step is being referred for lab testing. Complete lab work to test for HIV and your kidney function to make sure that your body can safely tolerate the medication. 

Once you have started PrEP, you will need to continue taking it every day and speak to a healthcare practitioner every three months for follow-up appointments and lab work.

If you’d like to start immediately, complete our quick online assessment and schedule your free online consultation with one of our dedicated healthcare practitioners today. 

You can get PrEP at Felix. We make it easy to access PrEP by offering the ability to manage your whole PrEP prescription process online with our team of trained healthcare practitioners. 

You don't have to take time off work or miss school to see us in person. Plus, we offer free shipping so you can start PrEP from the comfort of your own home. 

If you want to get PrEP in person, talk to your doctor or visit a local PrEP provider in your area.

What are the side effects of PrEP?

Short-term side effects

Usually, less than 10% of patients on PrEP experience any side effects. They tend to go away within 1-2 weeks. Before receiving a prescription, lab tests are required to ensure your body can tolerate PrEP. These tests are covered by provincially funded health care.

Possible short-term side effects may include:

  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea

Long-term side effects

PrEP has been tied to a decrease in kidney and liver function and bone density in some people. However, in these minor cases, toxicity levels did not enhance the risk of liver or kidney failure or bone fracturing. 

These changes were reversed after they stopped taking PrEP. Regular lab testing every three months while on PrEP is crucial to ensure your body can safely tolerate the medication. PrEP is an essential tool in the fight against HIV, and it is vital to be informed about the medication's risks and benefits before starting treatment.

What is the cost of PrEP?

The cost of pre-exposure prophylaxis varies depending on where you live. In some cases, your provincial or territorial government will cover the price for eligible residents. In contrast, others may only have programs that provide coverage to particular groups, such as those who are low-income earners and/or living within specific regions (like northern Canada). 

In Ontario, if you are under 25 and qualify for OHIP+, then your province is responsible for covering the cost of PrEP. Suppose that does not cover all expenses associated with PrEP, like testing (which sometimes needs to be repeated). 

In that case, Felix will provide additional financial support of up to $50 per month on top of any outstanding insurance amount!

PrEP: Key takeaways

PrEP is an essential tool for protecting yourself against HIV, and at Felix, we are committed to making it as accessible as possible. If you think PrEP might be right for you, our quick online assessment can help you determine your risk factors and whether PrEP is a good option. 

Once you complete the assessment, one of our dedicated healthcare practitioners will reach out to you to schedule a free online consultation. During the consultation, we will discuss your risk factors and develop a PrEP plan that meets your needs. 

We understand that everyone's situation is different, and we will work with you to make sure PrEP is convenient and affordable. So if you're ready to take control of your sexual health, get started with Felix today.

WRITTEN BY
Felix Team
Updated on:
February 19, 2023
Medically reviewed by
Dr. Sarah Lasuta
Family Physician, MD, CCFP
Disclaimer

The views expressed here are those of the author and, as with the rest of the content on Health Guide, are not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any medical questions or concerns, please talk to your healthcare practitioner.

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