What is PrEP?

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. 

Is PrEP Right for Me?

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:

How Effective is PrEP?

PrEP is extremely effective at preventing HIV if taken as prescribed. When taken correctly, it reduces your risk for HIV by 99%. While there is less research on how effective PrEP is for those who inject drugs, studies show it reduces the risk of HIV by about 74%.

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. There is currently no data for insertive anal sex.

Is PrEP Safe?

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. 

Can I Stop Using Condoms If I am on PrEP?

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.

Starting and Stopping PrEP

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:

  1. Your risk of HIV is significantly lowered because of life changes
  2. You aren’t taking your medication as prescribed
  3. You are experiencing severe side effects that are interfering with everyday life
  4. Your body is reacting to PrEP in unsafe ways

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. 

PrEP and HIV Services with METRO

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.

HIV testing is always free with METRO. We also offer at-home HIV testing and TeleHealth visits. Not to mention, our advanced knowledge and partnership with CAN Community Health has allowed us to help HIV+ patients get to “undetectable” status. That means there is so little of the virus in your body, it can’t be detected by a test. It also means you can stay healthy, and the likelihood of spreading the virus to partners decreases.