PrEP stands for Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis. It’s a daily pill that can help reduce your chance of getting HIV if you participate in sexual activity that carries a higher risk for contracting HIV. It does not help prevent other STIs.

How does it work?

It’s basically an HIV drug that keeps the virus from attaching to your system if you get exposed to the virus through sex or sharing needles.

Using PrEP isn’t a substitute for other strategies to avoid HIV. Using condoms consistently and correctly every time you have sex, getting tested, and knowing your status and your partner’s status are the best ways to avoid HIV. For those participating in sexual activity that carries a higher risk for contracting HIV, taking PrEP every day can lower their HIV risk by more than 90%. When used with condoms, the risk of HIV is almost completely eliminated.

Who is PrEP for?

One in five new HIV infections happens to someone under the age of 24. But some teens are more at risk than others.

PrEP is for people who have tested HIV negative and are:

  • A girl or guy in a sexual relationship with someone who is at higher risk for HIV (for example, your partner injects drugs or you’re a girl with a bisexual male partner)
  • A guy who has had anal sex with another guy without a condom in the past six months
  • A guy who has sex with other guys (even just sometimes) and has been diagnosed with an STI in the past six months
  • In a sexual relationship with someone who is HIV positive

How to Get PrEP

Any doctor can prescribe PrEP, but not all docs are familiar with it. Many health departments offer PrEP. The North Carolina AIDS Training and Education Center maintains a database of PrEP-friendly healthcare providers. []

You can use our nifty doc search to find a place to get tested for HIV. [link to finder]

PEP – Emergency Post-Exposure Prophylaxis

The same drug used for PrEP can be used in emergencies for up to 72 hours after you’ve been exposed to HIV. It’s called PEP – or post-exposure prophylaxis. It’s not a replacement for other HIV prevention strategies like condom use and PrEP.

PEP is generally used for people who:

  • Might have been exposed to HIV during sex – like the condom broke and you think your partner might have HIV
  • Are sexually assaulted
  • Get exposed to needles

Some emergency departments, urgent care clinics and health departments offer PEP.