Is PrEP for you?

What’s PrEP? Should you take it? Our PrEP Conversations video series can explain the basics of PrEP, give you tips on getting started, and debunk some myths you may have heard. Below, you can find answers to the most commonly asked questions about PrEP. Got a question about PrEP that isn’t answered here? Send an email to prep@harlemunited.org and someone will get in touch right away.





Want to learn more about PrEP? We’ll send you a free digital booklet with more information about PrEP, how it works, how to figure out it if it’s right for you, and how to get it if you decide that it is.

Should You Take PrEP?

PrEP is a once-a-day pill that can help you stay HIV-negative. Here’s what you need to know. Got more questions? Email us at intake@harlemunited.org.

What is PrEP? | How do I know if PrEP is right for me? | How do I get PrEP? | How much does PrEP cost? | Is there any reason not to use PrEP? | How does PrEP work? | Is PrEP effective? | What if I miss a dose? | Can PrEP replace condoms? | Are there any side effects? | Can I continue taking hormone replacements or birth control while I’m on PrEP? | I’m ready to try PrEP. Can you help me?

>>What is PrEP?

PrEP is a pill you take once daily to stay HIV-negative.

PrEP, which stands for pre-exposure prophylaxis, is a medication approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for daily use that can help people stay HIV-negative. PrEP is meant to be taken before you are exposed to HIV infection. The pill is called Truvada, a two-drug combination in one pill. A doctor prescribes the medication, and it is taken once a day.

>>How do I know if PrEP is right for me?

People use PrEP to remain HIV-negative for a variety of reasons.

You should talk with your provider about PrEP if any of the following apply to you:

  • You have multiple sexual partners;
  • Your primary sexual partner(s) is HIV-positive;
  • You have been the receptive partner for condomless sex, especially with a partner who is HIV-positive or whose status you don’t know;
  • You have been treated recently for a non-oral STI;
  • Your or your sexual partner(s) use injection drugs;
  • You have taken PEP (post-exposure prophylaxis) more than once in the past year;
  • Your sexual partner(s) refuses to use condoms during sex, or you find it challenging to consistently use condoms; or
  • You or your sexual partner(s) engage in sex work, or the exchange of sex for money, drugs, housing, or other assistance.

>>How do I get PrEP?

Work with your healthcare provider to start a PrEP routine.

If you decide PrEP is right for you, you’ll meet with a healthcare provider who will screen you for the medication, including giving you an HIV test and tests for hepatitis B, kidney function and STIs. If it’s a good fit, you’ll receive a prescription and take the medication every day. Once you start taking PrEP, you’ll return to your provider at least every three months (90 days) for follow-up care, including blood tests, HIV and STI screenings, assessment of any side effects, discussion of HIV risks, an assessment of your experience with the medication, and a prescription refill.

You can get started with PrEP through Harlem United by emailing prep@harlemunited.org. One of our PrEP navigators will get in touch with you to set up an appointment.

>>How much does it cost?

For most people, PrEP is inexpensive or even free.

The amount you pay for PrEP will depend on whether you have health insurance and the specifics of your insurance plan. Even if you don’t have health insurance, there are opportunities through Medicaid, Gilead (which makes PrEP), and other agencies to get you PrEP at a reduced cost or no cost at all. We have staff who can help you figure out how to get started with PrEP in the most affordable way. Email prep@harlemunited.org to get started.

>>Is there any reason not to use PrEP?

PrEP can be highly effective at preventing HIV, but there are a few reasons why it might not be right for you.

You should not use PrEP if any of the following apply to you:

  • You are HIV-positive or show symptoms of HIV infection;
  • You do not have access to regular HIV/STI testing and prevention counseling;
  • You do not plan to take the medication consistently; or
  • You have kidney disease or reduced kidney health.

If you want to try PrEP but you don’t have access to regular HIV/STI testing and prevention counseling, we offer free HIV testing at sites across New York. You can request more information or set up an appointment by emailing prep@harlemunited.org.

>>How does PrEP work?

PrEP prevents HIV from spreading in your body.

If you are exposed to bodily fluids — such as semen, blood or vaginal fluids — of someone with HIV, having PrEP in your bloodstream blocks the pathways that lead to infection.

>>Is PrEP effective?

Yes. PrEP is more than 90% effective when taken consistently, according to the CDC.

Experts recommend taking PrEP daily in combination with other safer sex practices (condom use and regular HIV/STI testing) in order to significantly reduce your risk of contracting HIV.

>>What if I miss a dose?

You’re still somewhat protected, as long as you continue to take PrEP consistently.

According to the makers of Truvada, the drug is most effective when taken every day. If you miss a dose, just take your next dose as soon as you remember, or call your doctor if you’re unsure of what to do. We’ve also seen in studies that PrEP offers some, though reduced, protection against HIV even when doses are missed. What we know for sure is that the more consistently you take it, the more thoroughly you are protected. If you consistently have trouble remembering to take PrEP every day, you will not be fully protected against contracting HIV and should reconsider whether PrEP is right for you.

>>Can PrEP replace condoms?

PrEP is an additional level of protection against HIV.

The FDA recommends that you use PrEP with condoms to maximize your protection against HIV and other STIs. However, PrEP can help lower your risk of contracting HIV even in situations where you don’t use a condom. PrEP does not protect you against other STIs, such as Hepatitis C.

>>Are there any side effects?

Most people who take PrEP do not experience any side effects.

About 10% of people who take PrEP experience side effects such as headaches, weight loss and upset stomach, but these effects usually go away after a few weeks of taking PrEP. You can talk with your healthcare provider about what side effects you can expect and what to do about them. And any side effects you do experience will go away if you decide to stop taking PrEP altogether.

>>Can I continue taking hormone replacements or birth control while I’m on PrEP?

Yes. PrEP does not interfere with HRT or birth control.

In addition to providing PrEP services, we can also help you safely access hormones — including transitioning from street hormones to hormone treatment under a doctor’s care. Email pgyura@harlemunited.org to get started.

>>I’m ready to try PrEP. Can you help me?

Yes!

You can get started with PrEP through Harlem United by emailing prep@harlemunited.org. One of our PrEP navigators will get in touch with you to set up an appointment.