What is PrEP?
Pre-exposure prophylaxis (or PrEP) is a daily medicine taken to lower the chance of getting HIV. Two medications, sold under the brand names Truvada® and Descovy®, are approved for daily use as PrEP to help prevent a person without HIV from getting the virus from sex or injection drug use. Studies have shown that PrEP is highly effective for preventing HIV if it is used as prescribed. PrEP is much less effective when it is not taken consistently.
Who should consider taking PrEP?
PrEP is for people without HIV who are at risk for getting the virus from sex or injection drug use. The federal guidelines recommend that PrEP be considered for people who are HIV-negative who:
Have a sexual partner with HIV (especially if the partner has an unknown or detectable viral load)
Have not consistently used a condom
Have been diagnosed with an STD in the past 6 months
PrEP is also recommended for people who inject drugs, and:
Share needles, syringes, or other equipment to inject drugs (for example, cookers)
Have an injection partner with HIV
PrEP should also be considered for people who have been prescribed non-occupational post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) and report continued risk behavior, or have used multiple courses of PEP.
Is PrEP a vaccine?
No. PrEP does not work the same way as a vaccine. A vaccine teaches your body to fight off infection for several years. For PrEP, you take a pill every day by mouth. If you take PrEP daily, the presence of the medicine in your bloodstream can often stop HIV from taking hold and spreading in your body. If you do not take PrEP every day, there may not be enough medicine in your bloodstream to block the virus.
How effective is PrEP?
Studies have shown that PrEP reduces the risk of getting HIV from sex by about 99% when taken consistently. Among people who inject drugs, PrEP reduces the risk of getting HIV by at least 74% when taken consistently. Since PrEP does not protect against other STDs, use condoms the right way every time you have sex.
Where can I learn more?
- Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
Hawaii Department of Health, Harm Reduction Services Branch