What is PrEP and Why Should I Consider It? (Guest Blogger, Zach Reau)

Many of you have probably heard about this new thing called “PrEP” but might not know much about it. There’s a ton of information out there, but knowing what is right and which sources to trust can be tricky. So let’s break it down.
PrEP stands for “pre-exposure prophylaxis”, which is basically just medical language for “taking something to prevent something else from happening.” Sunblock, vaccines like Gardasil for HPV (GET THIS IF YOU HAVEN’T!), and birth control are all forms of pre-exposure prophylaxis. When we talk about PrEP, though, we’re talking about PrEP for HIV.
PrEP for HIV is where HIV-negative people take medication to reduce their risk of getting HIV. And it works. If you take it every day, it’s between 92-99% effective, and it’s even more effective when you combine it with condoms and other prevention strategies. PrEP WORKS. Unlike condoms, it even works if you miss a dose. It’s that good.

Anyone who ever has sex without a condom should consider PrEP. It’s not just for gay dudes. Some other folks that should consider PrEP: people who have partner who is HIV positive, people who inject drugs, people who sell sex for money or other things, people who live in areas or communities that have high rates of HIV (the South, Black or Latino men who have sex with men, transgender individuals, Black and Latino women)…basically, check out your risk for HIV and make the choice that’s best for you.
Some things to know about PrEP:
• Any doctor or nurse practitioner can prescribe PrEP, but you have to go back to see them every three months, so choose one you like. Many AIDS Service Organizations and LGBTQ health clinics offer PrEP.
• To get PrEP, you have to test negative for HIV. You get tested every three months, because if you aren’t taking the meds and you get HIV, you need to get help as soon as possible. PrEP isn’t enough to treat HIV, only prevent it.
• PrEP does not protect against other STIs like Syphilis, Gonorrhea, or Chlamydia. That’s one reason why you should still consider wearing condoms. Regardless of your risk, you should still get tested for STIs regularly (like when you go in to see your doc for your next PrEP prescription).
• Some people get an upset stomach, headache or diarrhea for the first couple days/week that they start it. It’s a powerful medicine, so your body needs to get used to it.

How to pay for PrEP:
Paying for PrEP is actually pretty easy. It’s covered under most insurance, Medicaid, and Medicare plans. If you don’t have any of those, AIDS Resource Center can get you enrolled. If you can’t enroll or don’t want to, that’s okay too; there are assistance programs for people with and without insurance coverage. No matter what your situation, paying for PrEP should not be the reason you don’t choose to take it. Check out ohioprep.org for those resources.

What else?
There’s also something called PEP, or post-exposure prophylaxis. PEP is medication that can prevent HIV infection after you’ve been exposed to it. So if you’re not on PrEP yet, and you have sex without a condom or think you might have come into contact with HIV some other way, there’s a morning-after pill for HIV. It only works within 72 hours of when you met the virus, though, so act quickly and call ARC Ohio, your doctor, or an emergency room as soon as possible.

If you want more information on PrEP, you can check out ohioprep.org or email prep@arcohio.org. There’s a list of doctors and nurses prescribing PrEP and a bunch of other good stuff to teach you more about PrEP/PEP.

This is HUGE. Talk to your friends about it.

 

~Zach Reau is Community Engagement Manager at ARC Ohio.  He travels throughout Ohio increasing awareness of PrEP.  Zach has over 5 years’ experience working on social justice issues.  Any questions concerning this blog should be addressed to prep@arcohio.org.