Pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP, is an HIV prevention method. Its most common form comes as an oral medication taken by those who don’t have HIV. PrEP can help prevent HIV from infecting and spreading through your system. Since PrEP is relatively new, many people are still learning about the medication. Here are six PrEP myths debunked.
How effective is it?
First, let’s look at its efficacy. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), PrEP has been shown to reduce the risk of getting HIV from sex by 99% when taken as prescribed. And it can even reduce the risk to intravenous drug users by 74% if taken daily. Currently, the two FDA-approved PrEP medications are Truvada® and Descovy®.
Consistent use allows the medicine to remain present in the bloodstream of an HIV-negative individual. If you’re exposed to HIV, PrEP will block the invading virus from spreading throughout your body.
Common PrEP Myths
Myth: You don’t need to use condoms on PrEP.
PrEP provides protection from HIV, but it does not protect against other STDs like gonorrhea and chlamydia. Using condoms along with PrEP can help reduce your risk of contracting an STD.
Myth: You can start taking PrEP after you’ve been exposed.
PrEP is for people who are at risk for HIV. According to the CDC, PrEP is not the right choice for people who may have been recently exposed to HIV. If you think you’ve been exposed in the last 72 hours, talk to your health care provider, an emergency room doctor, or an urgent care provider about post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) immediately.
Myth: PrEP is only for gay men.
PrEP is recommended if you have an HIV-positive partner, a partner with multiple partners, or a partner whose HIV status is unknown. Truvada® is also specifically recommended for those taking drugs intravenously and who are at risk. Descovy® is not for those at risk through vaginal sex.
Myth: You don’t need to take PrEP every day.
PrEP is a both a daily prescription and on-demand medication depending on your situation and risk level. Studies have shown on-demand PrEP to be effective for gay and bisexual men having sex without a condom who are not at ongoing risk of HIV, but studies have yet to show the medications on-demand efficacy for heterosexual partners. The daily medication is for those with an ongoing risk of contracting HIV. In this situation, PrEP needs to be taken every day as prescribed for it to work effectively. If it’s not taken daily, there may not be enough medicine in your bloodstream to block the virus.
To help you remember to take your PrEP pill, you can try our helpful Reminders feature in the Alto app that will let you know when it’s time for your next dose. To ensure you don’t run out of PrEP, you can also opt into auto refills so that we can reach out to you when you’re close to being due for your next delivery.
Myth: PrEP is too expensive.
It’s true that paying for PrEP out-of-pocket can be costly. The good news is that most insurance plans and state Medicaid programs cover PrEP. There are also PrEP assistance programs that can help you get the medication for low or no cost, even if you don’t have insurance.
Myth: It’s difficult to get PrEP.
If you think PrEP may be right for you, make an appointment with your doctor or healthcare provider. They can answer any questions you have, write a prescription for you (PrEP is prescription-only), as well as help you set up your HIV test, which is required before you can start taking PrEP. If you don’t have a health care provider or can’t get a prescription from your doctor, organizations like Please Prep Me can help quickly connect you with a provider who can write you a prescription for PrEP.
Alto on your side
If you have additional questions, we recommend talking it over with your provider. When it comes to helping you set up auto refills, daily reminders, or to ensure you get your medications the day you need them, our team of expert pharmacists is here to help. We’ll also deliver your prescription for free and send you quarterly lab reminders. You can download the Alto mobile app from the App Store or Google Play to get started.
Reach out to our HIV speciality team via in-app secure messaging or phone at 1-800-874-5881.
This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.