PrEP - HIV Prevention Pill - Los Angeles LGBT Center

One out of eight people who are HIV-positive and living in the U.S. don’t know it. We’re working to lower that percentage by offering free HIV and STD testing in locations throughout Los Angeles. Those who test positive for any infections can quickly get access to the Center’s world-class specialty care and support services.

PrEP - HIV Prevention Pill

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Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) is a prescription medication for HIV-negative individuals that lowers the chances of HIV infection when taken daily.

The Los Angeles LGBT Center encourages HIV-negative individuals with increased risk* of HIV to consider PrEP as another tool in reducing the risk of HIV infection.

To learn if PrEP is right for you and explore coverage, please contact our PrEP Navigators at 323-993-8990.

*Increased risk is defined as someone who has a partner living with HIV, has multiple sexual partners, engages in condomless sex, recently tested positive for an STI, engages in sex work, and/or injects drugs, among other risk factors.

Learn more at prephere.org.


 

Frequently Asked Questions About Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (and responses to myths)

What is Pre-exposure Prophylaxis?
Pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP, is commonly known as the HIV prevention pill. PrEP involves taking a daily dose of Truvada, which is made of two drugs—Tenofovir and Emtricitabine. After taking them for a period of time, they can prevent HIV from infecting healthy cells.  When taken daily as directed, PrEP is 92-95% effective in protecting HIV-negative people from HIV. PrEP is even more effective when it is combined with other prevention methods, such as condoms.

How often do I need to take PrEP for it to be effective? 
The use of daily PrEP is highly effective if taken every day, less effective if pills are not taken daily. When starting PrEP, it is estimated that a minimum of 7 days of daily dosing is needed to achieve protective concentrations for receptive anal sex, 21 days for vaginal sex.

How can I decide if PrEP is right for me?
Before starting PrEP, it’s important for you to determine if you are comfortable and confident in your ability to take a daily pill to prevent HIV. PrEP only works if you take it! PrEP is more than just taking a pill, it’s a program! People taking PrEP should see their health care provider every 3 months for regular HIV/STI testing along with lab tests to ensure healthy kidney function.

Still wondering whether PrEP is right for you?
The Center’s PrEP Calculator tool (prephere.org) can help you determine how strong of a PrEP candidate you are by assessing your individual risk of becoming HIV-positive. 

Please note: This was developed with data from gay and bisexual men living in Los Angeles, CA so it may not be as reliable for heterosexual individuals, trans* individuals, injection drug users, people living outside Los Angeles, or for HIV-negative guys who are in a long-term relationship with HIV-positive guys.

For all gender identities and sexual orientations, the CDC’s HIV Risk Reduction tool (https://wwwn.cdc.gov/hivrisk/index.html) allows you to get customized information on behaviors that place them at risk for HIV and strategies to reduce their risk. The tool helps people determine how best to protect themselves and their partners. The interactive tool allows users to compare the risks of different sexual activities and to see how one or a combination of prevention methods – such as condoms, pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), or HIV treatment for those living with HIV – could change their level of protection.

Regardless of your risk score, people have many reasons for starting PrEP, so these tools should NOT be the only factor in deciding whether or not to take PrEP. These tools are not a substitute for advice from your medical provider.

What are the side-effects of PrEP?
Truvada is generally well tolerated, with few side effects. Most people on PrEP report experiencing no side effects, but some side effects were reported in clinical trials.

Some people in clinical studies of PrEP had early side effects such as nausea, upset stomach, diarrhea, mild headache, or dizziness, but these were mild and usually went away in the first month. PrEP may also cause decreases in kidney function and bone-density; however, research suggests that side effects while using PrEP are generally mild and uncommon. No serious side effects were observed. You should tell your health care provider if these or other symptoms become severe or do not go away.

How can I access PrEP?
Speak with your medical provider to discuss your situation and interest in PrEP. We encourage you to be as honest as possible so he or she can help you make the best decision.

If you and your provider agree that PrEP is right for you, your provider will conduct a general physical and test you for HIV and other STDs. Your blood will also be tested to see if your kidneys and liver are working well.

If you do not have a provider, or if your medical provider does not feel comfortable helping you make this decision and prescribing PrEP, you're welcome to get your medical care from the Los Angeles LGBT Center. You can begin the process of enrolling by calling 323-993-8990. Be sure to let them know you are calling about PrEP so they can help you accordingly. 

I think I’ve been exposed to HIV. Can I start PrEP right away to prevent infection?
No. If you haven’t been on PrEP and you had a high-risk sexual experience, there is a better option called Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP).

To be effective, PEP needs to be started as soon as possible, preferably within 36 hours and no later than 72 hours after exposure to HIV. PEP consists of two to three antiretroviral medications that are prescribed by a medical provider. The provider will determine what treatment is right for you based on how you were exposed to HIV.

PEP is safe but may cause side effects like nausea in some people. These side effects can be treated and are not life threatening. PEP is not 100% effective; it does not guarantee that someone exposed to HIV will not become infected with HIV.

The Center and our Center-WeHo location offer PEP. Based on your income, you may even qualify for free treatment. To learn more, please call us at (323) 860-5855 (Option 4), Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. - 6 p.m.

Note: If you believe you were exposed on Friday night or on Saturday, you should consider going to the emergency room of a hospital to access PEP.

Where can I get more information?

Prepfacts.org – a very informative website with an excellent discussion of PrEP

CDC PrEP information sheet: 
www.cdc.gov/hiv/pdf/PrEP_GL_Patient_Factsheet_PrEP_English.pdf

 MYTHS ABOUT PrEP

Thanks to PrEP, I don’t need to use condoms anymore. 
No prevention strategy is 100% effective. In the largest clinical trial of PrEP, participants were encouraged to continue using condoms. There isn't enough research for us to know how effective PrEP may be for those who don't use condoms. It's also important to note that while PrEP can prevent HIV infection, it does not protect people from other sexually transmitted diseases like syphilis, gonorrhea, etc. Condoms remain the best source of protection against those infections.


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