If you know anything about METRO, you know we take sexual health and HIV prevention very seriously. That’s why we do a lot of work promoting PrEP — but what exactly is it?
PrEP, or Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis, is a medicine for people at risk of contracting HIV through sex or drug use. It can also be used as a preventative medicine. When taken as prescribed, it is highly effective for preventing HIV.
There are several factors that go into deciding to start PrEP. It may be right for you if you have tested negative for HIV and any of the following apply to you:
PrEP is currently covered by most insurances. The federal government recently instructed insurance companies to cover all costs associated with PrEP including cost of medication and copays, coinsurance or deductible payments for the quarterly clinic visits and lab tests required to maintain a PrEP prescription. METRO also provides cost assistance and self pay options for those without insurance.
PrEP is extremely effective at preventing HIV if taken as prescribed and can reduce your risk for HIV by 99%.
PrEP becomes most effective for receptive anal sex at around 7 days of use, and 21 days of use for vaginal sex and injection drug use.
PrEP is safe, but people can have some side effects while taking it. Side effects may include diarrhea, nausea, headache, fatigue, and stomach pain. These symptoms do usually go away over time, but you should call your healthcare provider if these symptoms are severe or don’t seem to be going away.
While PrEP does help prevent contracting HIV, using PrEP along with condoms better protects you. After all, PrEP only helps prevent HIV. It will not help protect against STIs such as chlamydia and gonorrhea.
If and when you’ve decided to start taking PrEP, the only place you can get it from is a healthcare provider. Before beginning, you have to take an HIV test and be HIV negative. While taking PrEP, you’ll visit your healthcare provider every three months for follow-ups, HIV testing, and prescription refills. There is mail-in self-testing and TeleHealth options for those who prefer it.
There are several reasons why somebody may stop taking PrEP. These include:
If you stopped taking PrEP and would like to start again, simply reach out to your healthcare provider. The process would be the same as when you first began.
Getting started on PrEP with METRO is easy and only takes about 30 minutes. Schedule an appointment, get a free HIV test, see a PrEP navigator and walk out with a prescription. Telehealth options are also available.
With our roots in serving the LGBTQ+ community and those at risk for HIV in Tampa Bay, we’re proud to provide inclusive community health services for over 25 years — without judgement and stigma-free.