PrEP Questions

If I use PrEP that means I don’t need to use condoms, right?

Wrong. PrEP is just one HIV prevention tool, but combining multiple strategies, like using condoms, increases your protection against HIV infection. Condoms also help prevent more than just HIV.

PrEP (when taken every day) helps prevent: iconmonstr-check-mark-5 HIV iconmonstr-x-mark-5 STIs iconmonstr-x-mark-5 Pregnancy
Condoms (when used every time) help prevent: iconmonstr-check-mark-5 HIV iconmonstr-check-mark-5 STIs iconmonstr-check-mark-5 Pregnancy

If you need access to free condoms, check out our friends at Take Control Philly. On the “Testing and Treatment” page you can find places to get tested for both HIV and STIs.

How soon after starting PrEP will it be effective?

PrEP is effective, meaning it is protecting you from HIV infection, after you have been taking it for seven days, as directed. This timeframe is longer for women, possibly up to 30 days. Because it’s hard to nail down the exact moment you’re fully protected by PrEP, it’s important to continue to use condoms and other HIV prevention strategies you know and like.

Can you get HIV from taking PrEP?

No, you cannot get HIV from taking PrEP medication. Truvada, the medication used for PrEP, was originally designed for HIV-positive individuals and was then discovered to have an additional use: it can help prevent HIV transmission for HIV-negative individuals. There is no HIV virus in the medication, therefore taking it poses no risk for transmission from the medication.

The only way you can get HIV while on PrEP is if you stop taking it, and stop all other HIV prevention strategies such as condoms. Keep taking PrEP every day as directed, and use condoms every time for full protection.

Can I just ask my doctor about PrEP?

Yes. If you have a regular primary care doctor (someone you see for physicals and sick and well visits) you can definitely ask them more about PrEP. Talking about PrEP will also mean talking to your doctor about your sexual history and HIV testing. Hopefully you’re already talking about this stuff with them, but if not this is a great time to start!

Some doctors might not know about PrEP, or might not know very much. That doesn’t mean they’re bad doctors, it’s just that PrEP is relatively new and they may not have many patients asking about it yet. The section below is about how to start the conversation with your doctor about PrEP.

How can I start the conversation?

Starting the conversation with your doctor can be difficult or uncomfortable, but we have a few quick tips to help you get started.

Before your visit:

  1. Do some research on PrEP so you feel more comfortable asking and about it.
  2. Make a list of questions you want to ask your doctor (Is PrEP right for me? What is required of me to take PrEP? Can you start me on PrEP and manage my prescriptions?).
  3. Make a list of why you want to start PrEP (this might include feelings, concerns and more details about your sexual history).

At your visit:

  1. Ask all the questions you have written down.
  2. Be clear about why you’re interested in PrEP, and why you think you’re a good candidate.
  3. Be honest. It can be hard to talk about sexual health with your doctor, but the more information your provider has the better they can support you in your HIV prevention efforts!

Take a look at this brochure to help with some talking points with your doctor!

Do I need insurance?

You do not need insurance in order to receive PrEP, but if you do have insurance you can use it!

If you DON’T have insurance: There are a few places in Philadelphia where you can get PrEP prescribed for FREE. These include community health agencies and Philadelphia Department of Health Clinics. We partner with these agencies all the time and trust the services they provide. Many clinics will help you get your own insurance if that is a goal of yours, this way you can receive PrEP anywhere.

If you DO have insurance: Then you can get PrEP at any healthcare provider’s office that prescribes it. Once PrEP is prescribed to you, your insurance will be charged and an explanation of benefits (EOB) report will be sent home (mostly for private insurance companies). This document explains what was prescribed by the doctor and the cost (covered by insurance). This is important to know about in case you share your insurance with your parents, a guardian or a partner – they might receive the EOB and then know you’re taking PrEP. If taking PrEP is something you would prefer stayed confidential, you may want to consider utilizing one of the free clinics listed above, until you have your own insurance.