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What is PrEP?

Dr. David: So, I’ve been hearing about a pill that can prevent HIV. Does it really work, and how do I get it? Got questions about PrEP? #AskTheHIVDoc has all the answers.
The pill that prevents HIV is kind of a newer addition to our HIV prevention methods, and it’s called pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP. It’s a pill that contains two medications that are commonly used to treat HIV. You take the medication before you get HIV to protect yourself in case you do get exposed. It’s been found to be very effective, um, and in the studies that we’ve seen with gay men, when taken every day it can be effective in reducing risk of HIV by anywhere from 90% to close to 100%. But the important component is taking the pill everyday. If you only take it about 3 or 4 days out of the week, you’re not going to achieve the same level of protection. But PrEP was not intended to be something you have to take for the rest of your life. Sexuality is fluid. Sexual risk behavior is fluid. So, when you feel like you’re putting yourself at risk for HIV, or if you feel that some of your behaviors, if you’re not using condoms as much, PrEP may be useful in that scenario. But it’s not necessarily the case for everybody that once you start PrEP that you have to be on it for the rest of your life. So it’s a case by case scenario.

PrEP, what?! Dr. David breaks down who might benefit from the HIV prevention pill.

PrEP is an option for anyone who does not have HIV and wants to reduce their risk of getting the virus. This may include, but is not necessarily limited to people who:

  • have a sexual partner with HIV
  • are at higher risk (or whose partners are) for HIV, including men who have sex with men, heterosexual women of color, and injection drug users
  • do not regularly use condoms or who have had a sexually transmitted disease in the past six months

While highly effective at preventing HIV, PrEP does not protect against other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Condoms provide protection against other STDs, in particular gonorrhea and chlamydia.

A health care provider can help you determine if PrEP is a good option for you.

Click here for more information on PrEP.


#AskTheHIVDoc is a video series from Greater Than HIV featuring top HIV doctors providing answers to commonly-asked questions about HIV prevention, testing and treatment.

This information is shared for educational purposes only and should not be used as a substitute for professional medical advice. The views expressed are those of the featured medical professional and reflect information available to that professional at time of filming. Always consult a health care provider for any personal health decision.

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