PrEP stands for pre-exposure prophylaxis. What does that actually mean?

“Pre” is something you do before a risk of “exposure” (in this case to HIV) and “prophylaxis” is a treatment or action you can take to help prevent disease.

What is PrEP?

PrEP is a pill you can take to protect you from HIV. It is extremely effective when taken properly.

If you take PrEP correctly, you don’t need to worry about a sexual partner’s HIV status.

You’re protecting your own HIV negative status by taking PrEP.

PrEP stands for pre-exposure prophylaxis.

What the name PrEP means:

  • ‘pre’ is something you do before a risk of exposure (in this case to HIV)
  • ‘prophylaxis’ is a treatment or action you can take to help prevent disease.

PrEP is different from PEP.

What is PrEP?

What goes into PrEP

One drug is approved for use as PrEP – the branded drug Truvada.

PrEP is also available in generic, unbranded form – these drugs are known as generics.

Generics contain the same ingredients as Truvada and work in the same way.

Truvada and the generics contain 2 active drugs:

  • Tenofovir TDF
  • Emtricitabine FTC.

PrEP and STIs

PrEP only protects you against HIV.

You need to take other precautions to reduce your risk of contracting other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) such as gonorrhoea, chlamydia, syphilis and hepatitis C.

We recommend regular STI testing. You also need to do an HIV test every three months.

STI vaccinations

Ask your sexual health clinic or GUM about vaccinations for hepatitis A, hepatitis B and the HPV vaccine. HPV is the virus that can cause some cancers in the throat and your lower parts.

PrEPster have created a fantastic information sheet on vaccinations.

Core benefits of PrEP

PrEP is a great idea for you if:

  • you are HIV negative, and
  • you have sex in a variety of situations where condoms are not easily used or not always used.

PrEP is a way to stay negative

PrEP can offer huge benefits if you’re struggling to maintain your HIV negative status, for whatever reason.

We know it’s not always easy. And that’s ok. PrEP offers another option.

It offers you empowerment and control, particularly if you’re a receptive partner.

PrEP means you are protecting yourself

Being on PrEP means you don’t have to worry about the status of your partner(s), because you’re protecting yourself.

PrEP is a well-studied, evidence-based method of avoiding HIV transmission.

What the name PEP means

PrEP is different from PEP, which stands for post-exposure prophylaxis.

  • ‘post’ is something you do after a risk of exposure, in this case to HIV
  • ‘prophylaxis’ is a treatment or action you can take to help prevent disease.

So, you take PrEP before you take a risk; you take PEP after you have taken a risk.

If you take PrEP you won’t need to take PEP.

PEP (also called PEPSE) is a month-long course of HIV drugs taken after sex. It can stop the virus taking hold if you have been exposed. You need to start PEP within 72 hours (3 days), ideally within 24 hours. You can get PEP at a sexual health clinic or local A&E department so you can  still access it at weekends and bank holidays.

To access PEP you will need to answer some questions about the sex you have had and who you had sex with. Not all risky sex acts call for the use of PEP. If your sexual partner is living with HIV and is undetectable, you won’t need PEP; if their HIV status is uncertain, and they belong to a group with high rates of HIV, the doctor will consider putting you on PEP.

In the UK, groups considered to have high rates of HIV are:

    1. men who have sex with men
    2. people from countries with high incidence of HIV:
      • Angola
      • Bahamas
      • Belize
      • Benin
      • Botswana
      • Burundi
      • Cote d’Ivoire
      • Cameroon
      • Central African Republic
      • Chad
      • Congo
      • Democratic Republic of the Congo
      • Gabon
      • Gambia
      • Ghana
      • Guinea
      • Guinea-Bissau
      • Guyana
      • Haiti
      • Jamaica
      • Kenya
      • Lesotho
      • Liberia
      • Malawi
      • Mauritius
      • Mozambique
      • Namibia
      • Nigeria
      • Rwanda
      • Sierra Leone
      • South Africa
      • South Sudan
      • Swaziland
      • Tanzania
      • Thailand
      • Togo
      • Trinidad and Tobago
      • Uganda
      • Tanzania
      • Zambia
      • Zimbabwe