What is PrEP for Gay Men: Everything You Need to Know

Pre-exposure prophylaxis, commonly known as PrEP, is a medicine taken by gay men who are at risk of contracting HIV. This medication is taken in the form of a pill and helps prevent the virus from taking hold and spreading within the body.

PrEP has become an essential tool in the fight against HIV, and it has proven to be highly effective when taken as directed.

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Understanding PrEP

What is PrEP for gay men?

PrEP stands for pre-exposure prophylaxis, which is a daily medication that is taken by individuals at high risk for HIV to prevent the spread of the virus. While PrEP is not just for gay men, it is a widely used option in the gay community among individuals at risk for HIV transmission.

How Does PrEP work?

PrEP works by preventing HIV from replicating and spreading within the body. The medication builds up in the bloodstream and creates a barrier against the virus.

If an individual on PrEP is exposed to HIV, the medication can interrupt the virus’ ability to grow and prevent the virus from taking hold in the body.

What are the possible Side Effects of PrEP?

Some people taking PrEP may experience side effects, which typically include nausea, diarrhea, headache, fatigue, and stomach pain. However, for most people, these side effects are mild and go away over time.

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If an individual experiences any side effects while taking PrEP, they should consult with their healthcare provider and discuss any concerns.

How to Take PrEP for Gay Men

What are the Different Forms of PrEP?

PrEP comes in two different forms: pills and an injectable. The pills are taken orally once a day, while the injectable (sold by the brand name Cabenuva) is given to you by a healthcare provider once every four weeks.

Both forms of PrEP contain the same medication, tenofovir disoproxil fumarate (TDF) or tenofovir alafenamide (TAF) with emtricitabine.

How Often should You take PrEP?

PrEP is most effective when taken daily. It is important to take PrEP at the same time every day as this helps maintain a consistent level of medication in your bloodstream.

If you miss a dose, don’t panic, just take it as soon as you remember. If you miss a day, continue taking it the following day, and continue daily dosing going forward.

How Long does PrEP take to Work?

If taken correctly and consistently, PrEP reaches its maximum effectiveness within seven days of starting medication. It is important to continue taking PrEP every day to maintain its level of effectiveness in preventing HIV.

PrEP is not a substitute for condoms and safer sex practices, which can help prevent other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and unintended pregnancies.

Who should take PrEP for Gay Men?

Am I at Risk for HIV?

PrEP is recommended for gay and bisexual men who are at high risk of getting HIV from sex or injection drug use. Risk factors may include having unprotected sex, having multiple sexual partners, having a sexually transmitted infection, or sharing needles or other equipment used to inject drugs.

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Is PrEP Appropriate for Me?

If you are a gay man and are concerned about your risk for HIV, it is important to talk with your healthcare provider about whether PrEP is right for you. Your healthcare provider can assess your risk factors and help you decide if PrEP is appropriate for you.

It is important to note that PrEP is not a substitute for other prevention methods, like condoms and regular HIV testing.

Getting PrEP for Gay Men

Where Can I get PrEP?

If you are interested in starting PrEP, talk to your healthcare provider or search for clinics in your area that provide PrEP services. Public health clinics, community health centers, AIDS service organizations, and some private doctor’s offices and health care provider networks provide PrEP.

You can also get PrEP at retail pharmacies like Walgreens, CVS, and Rite Aid. In some cases, you can even order PrEP online through certain telemedicine providers.

How Much Does PrEP Cost?

The cost of PrEP varies depending on your insurance coverage, where you go for care, and if you are eligible for assistance programs. Without insurance, the average cost of PrEP is about $2,000 per month.

However, many insurance plans, including Medicaid and Medicare, cover PrEP, and there are assistance programs available to help with the cost. For example, the Gilead Advancing Access program offers coupons and co-pay assistance to eligible individuals, and many state health departments have PrEP assistance programs.

Insurance and PrEP for Gay Men

Many insurance plans cover PrEP, but it’s important to check with your insurance company to make sure. If your insurance plan doesn’t cover PrEP, or if you don’t have insurance, there are still options available.

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Some assistance programs, like the Gilead Advancing Access program, can help with the cost of PrEP. Additionally, many state health departments have PrEP assistance programs or can provide referrals to clinics that offer PrEP at low or no cost.

References

Jonathan B. Delfs

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