What is PrEP?
PrEP stands for “pre-exposure prophylaxis”. The word “prophylaxis” means to prevent or protect from an infection. PrEP is a pill that you take every day that can lower your risk of getting HIV if you are exposed to the virus and don’t already have HIV. It contains 2 of the same medicines used to treat HIV.
Who can use PrEP?
You may want to consider taking PrEP if you don’t have HIV but may be at higher risk of getting it. (See page 4 for more about assessing risk.)
How effective is PrEP?
PrEP is most effective when taken consistently each day. According to the Centre for Disease Control, using PrEP every day can lower your risk of getting HIV from sex by more than 90% and from injection drug use by more than 70%.
What are the side effects of PrEP?
Side effects of PrEP may include an upset stomach or loss of appetite. These symptoms are usually mild and go away within the first month. Some people may also experience a mild headache.
How do I start PrEP?
If you think you might benefit from PrEP, talk to your health care provider. If you and your provider decide that PrEP is right for you, next steps will include blood tests for HIV and other STIs. You will also need a blood test to see if your kidneys are functioning well. If these tests show that PrEP is safe for you to start, your clinician will write you a prescription.
What happens once I start PrEP?
- You will take one pill every day.
- It may take some time taking PrEP consistently for the drugs to build up in your body to be as protective as possible. It can take about 7 days in anal tissue and about 20 days in vaginal* tissue.
- You’ll need blood tests, including an HIV test, every 3 months while taking PrEP, so you’ll have regular follow up visits with your clinician.
- If you have trouble taking PrEP every day or want to stop taking PrEP, your clinician can help plan next steps or alternatives.
- Using condoms with PrEP can help lower your risk of getting HIV even further and lower your risk of getting other STIs.
How much will PrEP cost?
Most insurance plans, including OHIP+, the Ontario Drug Benefit (ODB), Trillium Drug Program, workplace plans and university and college plans cover the cost of PrEP.
If you don’t have insurance, PrEP will likely cost $250-$280/month.
If you don’t know if you qualify for insurance coverage, Planned Parenthood Toronto’s Case Coordinator may be able to help. You can contact the clinic at 416-961-0113.
- CATIE factsheets:
- PrEP: catie.ca/en/prepguide
- The Sex You Want (for guys into guys): thesexyouwant.ca
- The Works (safer injection equipment and harm reduction services): bit.ly/2DOtopJ
If you have questions about this topic, feel free to contact one of our peer educators. [Link]
*We know that these aren’t the words everyone uses for their bodies (eg. trans folks), and support you using the language that feels best for you.