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What is PrEP and Is It for Me?

What is PrEP and Is It for Me?

Imagine being able to reduce your chances of getting HIV by up to 99% – pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) makes it possible. If you’re sexually active at all, it’s important to be “PrEP”ared and understand your options.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly 1.1 million people in the United States are at risk of contracting HIV. However, many who could benefit from PrEP are not using it.

Here’s everything you need to know about PrEP, including what PrEP is, why to take PrEP, and what happens when you visit vybe for your initial PrEP evaluation.

What is PrEP?

PrEP, or pre-exposure prophylaxis, is medicine that protects people from getting HIV from sex or injection drug use. PrEP is available in pill or shot form and must be taken consistently to maximize its effectiveness.

PrEP is for anyone without HIV who is sexually active, especially if you’re involved in sexual relationships with multiple partners, do not use condoms, or if you have an ongoing sexual relationship with an HIV-positive partner. (Remember, PrEP is not a substitute for safe sex! Always use condoms for extra protection against sexually transmitted infections.)

PrEP, not PEP

Be sure not to confuse PrEP with PEP, or post-exposure prophylaxis. Unlike PrEP, which is designed to prevent HIV long-term, PEP is taken in emergency situations after a possible HIV exposure.

PrEP Pill Options – Truvada® and Descovy®

Truvada and Descovy are both approved for use as PrEP, although there are some fundamental differences between the two:

  • Truvada is for people at risk of contracting HIV through sex or injection drug use, while Descovy is only for people at risk through non-vaginal sex. To date, there is not enough data to support the use of Descovy among people who inject drugs or are at risk of getting HIV through vaginal sex.
  • Because Truvada can cause kidney impairment and bone density loss, Descovy is preferred for patients with kidney disease or osteoporosis.
  • Truvada has been studied on a wider spectrum of patients, including gay and bisexual men, heterosexual women, trans men and women, and people who share needles.

Despite these differences, both Truvada and Descovy have proven to be equally effective at preventing HIV transmission. Your vybe care provider can help determine which pill is best for you.

PrEP Shot Option – Apretude

As of now, Apretude is the only shot approved for use as PrEP. Apretude is for people at risk of getting HIV through sex – it is not currently recommended for people who inject drugs.

Approved for adolescents

Both PrEP pills and shots are approved for use by adolescents without HIV who weigh at least 77 pounds and have the same risks listed above.

Why take PrEP?

The results speak for themselves – clinical studies show that PrEP is up to 99% effective in people at risk of HIV infection through sex and at least 74% effective in people who inject drugs.

And that’s just the beginning. Here are some other great reasons why to take PrEP:

  • Sex may be more enjoyable if being on PrEP removes your worries about HIV transmission.
  • You don’t have to continue taking PrEP if your circumstances change. If you are no longer sexually active or in multiple sexual relationships (and you and your current partner both test negative for HIV), you can stop taking PrEP.
  • While PrEP can cause minor side effects (such as headache, nausea, or fatigue), they typically go away over time.
  • If you’re concerned about weight gain, researchers confirm that PrEP does not raise lipid levels or have any substantial effect on body fat.
  • There are no known interactions between PrEP and alcohol either, although you may want to take PrEP when you aren’t drinking to avoid missing any doses. Again, taking PrEP consistently is key to its effectiveness.
  • Most health insurance plans cover PrEP, and there are payment assistance programs available for those without coverage or with large co-pays.

Get an Initial PrEP Evaluation

It’s crucial that you start taking PrEP before having sexual contact or sharing needles with someone who has HIV.

If you think PrEP may be right for you, don’t wait. The Mazzoni Center and Philadelphia Fight are excellent resources for an initial PrEP evaluation, follow-up visits, and any additional care. If you’re unable to get an appointment for an initial evaluation at either the Mazzoni Center or Philadelphia Fight, you can visit your local vybe urgent care as a second resource. During your initial PrEP evaluation, we’ll ask you some questions about risk management, discuss potential side effects, give you an HIV test (to make sure you are negative), do blood work, and finally, write your PrEP prescription.

After vybe gets you started on PrEP, you’ll need to visit a healthcare provider at places like the Mazzoni Center or Philadelphia Fight routinely for prescription refills or shots, HIV tests, and more. Mail-in HIV tests and telehealth services may be available.

vybe is here for all your urgent care needs

We believe that everyone deserves great care, and you’ll feel welcome from the moment you walk through the doors at vybe. We accept walk-ins for all urgent care services, including illness, injury, physicals, stitches, x-rays, COVID-19 testing, and so much more.