When taken correctly, PrEP is a great method for HIV prevention. Check out these frequently asked questions on oral PrEP:
“How long does it take for PrEP to work?”
It takes up to 7 days for you to be fully protected because the oral PrEP needs to build up in your body. To keep protected, you have to keep taking your PrEP pills every day for as long as you want and need the best level of protection.
“Do I have to take PrEP for the rest of my life?”
You only use PrEP for as long as you feel that you are at risk of getting HIV infection. If you are in a long-term relationship where one partner is HIV positive, the HIV-negative partner may need to take PrEP for life if the partner is not virally suppressed.
“What happens if I miss a PrEP pill?”
If you miss a PrEP pill, don’t stress. Just take one pill as soon as you remember and try to to keep up taking it daily as before. If you regularly forget to take your PrEP pills, use a condom and avoid unprotected sex. If you have been having unprotected sex then go back to the clinic and ask for a repeat HIV test. The healthcare provider will also assist you to choose the best option to protect you from an HIV infection. Also make sure you use condoms every time you have sex. This is because PrEP does not prevent other STIs or pregnancy.
“Can I get HIV from taking PrEP?”
No, you can’t. Your body doesn’t have the virus in it if you start PrEP because the clinic will test you for HIV before you start. You only start PrEP if you are HIV negative. Remember PrEP will only protect you from HIV if you take it regularly.
“Can I take PrEP if I am HIV-positive?”
No, you can’t. This is because you can’t use PrEP as HIV treatment. HIV-positive people need a different combination of ARV for treatment, prescribed by their healthcare provider.
“I’ve run out of PrEP. Can I use ARV treatment pills?”
No, you can’t. Using other people’s ARV pills can lead to side effects, allergic reactions or make both the ARVs and PrEP less effective.
“If I take PrEP, can I stop using condoms when I have sex?”
“Can I use PrEP and family planning together?”
Yes, PrEP can be taken with any kind of family planning (contraception).
“How can I use PrEP without anyone knowing?”
- Keep your pills in places your partner, or loved ones will not look, such as a handbag, a keychain with storage, or with pads and tampons.
- Keep a few pills in a dry unmarked container (ensure that this container is not clear plastic because sun can damage medication).
- If your partner or loved one watches you closely, think of a reason why you are going to the clinic. You could tell them you’re going to the clinic for another medical condition). You can also tell them you are taking this medication for another reason such as pregnancy prevention or menstrual cramps.
- Think about ways to explain any PrEP side effects you may have.
- When your partner, or loved one leaves the house, you can take a PrEP pill for that day out of the pill bottle or pill box and put it in a tissue in their pocket or handbag to take at the scheduled time (it should be taken at roughly the same time each day). Taking it from the tissue can be easier if your partner, or loved one, is home when it is time to take it. However if you still think this may put you at too much risk, you can take PrEP while your partner, or loved one, is out of the house even if that means their taking it at a slightly different time each day.
Click here to find your nearest clinic offering PrEP.
Learn more about PrEP and how it works in this article.