What is PrEP?
PrEP is a medicine that can be taken daily to help reduce your risk of HIV acquisition. It contains the active drugs tenofovir/emtricitabine and has been used as a HIV treatment for many years. PrEP is different to PEP, in that you take it in advance of sex, rather than afterwards, as an emergency.
It is not currently available on the NHS in England but is available via the IMPACT clinical trial, in limited capacity. It is however available via the health service in Scotland and via the PrEPARED project in Wales.
How effective is PrEP?
The success of PrEP is measured by how well it reduces the risk of acquiring (catching) HIV. A wide range of results have been reported from PrEP studies, with some finding high effectiveness and some finding that PrEP made no difference.
For men who have sex with men (MSM) the two most significant studies to date (PROUD and IPERGAY) found PrEP reduced your risk by 86%. Our experience in the clinic is that it is likely to be even more effective than that.
For women and heterosexual men the results are mixed. The key difference in results is linked to what we call adherence ie. how regularly you take the medication.
We are learning more all the time through PrEP research, including the IMPACT trial.
Did you know, PrEP can be taken two ways?
- DAILY dosing (taking it every single day, at the same time)
- ON DEMAND or EVENT BASED DOSING (taking it before sex, and for 48hrs after)
Do I need it?
PrEP is recommended for people at higher risk of HIV acquisition. In the UK this is most likely to be MSM who have condomless anal sex. HIV is most easily passed on through condomless vaginal or anal sex. However PrEP may also be suitable for some women, although daily dosing in women is essential, rather than event based dosing.
Condoms remain the primary way to prevent most STI’s. If you use condoms consistently, then we would not encourage you to swap them for PrEP.
I think I might need PrEP, where can I get it?
PrEP is only available in England via the IMPACT trial currently. There is limited availability via the trial, although it might be worth speaking to your local sexual health clinic to see if there are any spaces.
Some prescription or over the counter medicines cannot be taken alongside PrEP. Please speak to a doctor or nurse at the clinic, or your GP if you are taking, or are planning to take other medicines alongside PrEP. You can also check for interactions here