6 Things To Think About Before You Start PrEP
PrEP is an HIV prevention method where people take a pill to prevent them from acquiring HIV by up to 99% (if taken daily).
When taken on a daily basis, PrEP ensures there is enough HIV medication in the body to significantly reduce the risk of becoming infected with HIV if exposed during unprotected sex.
So, what do you need to know before you visit a doctor to ask if you should start taking PHARMAC-funded PrEP?
1. Is PrEP right for you?
The term Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis refers to the drugs, which help reducing the risk of HIV acquisition from sex by up to 99%.
It's most beneficial for those at high risk of acquiring HIV, i.e. those having regular condomless anal sex with people whose HIV status is unknown.
People having condomless sex with a partner living with HIV are also eligible for funded PrEP - so long as their partner has a detectable viral load. If their partner is undetectable, there is usually no need for PrEP, as UVL protects against HIV transmission.
As we understand that PrEP is not always right for everyone, we've made a short quiz to help you determine whether it's a good option for you.
2. You’ll need to test
You’ll need to test for HIV before qualifying for PrEP and should continue to test every three months while you’re on it. If you're unaware of your status and are living with HIV, taking PrEP can cause the virus to develop resistance, which can reduce your options for future HIV treatment.
3. Know how to take it
Currently there are only two recommended ways of taking PrEP: Daily PrEP, and PrEP 2-1-1 (also known as event-driven PrEP or on-demand PrEP). Both ways are similarly effective, provided you stick to using them exactly as prescribed.
Daily PrEP means you will take one pill every day.
PrEP 2-1-1 means taking 2 pills 2-24 hours before sex, 1 pill 24 hours after the first dose, and 1 pill 24 hours after the second dose.
If you’re having infrequent sexual encounters or only need to take PrEP for a short time, on-demand could be an effective HIV prevention option for you.
4. There’s a process to obtaining PrEP
PrEP is a publicly-funded medicine in New Zealand. This means that anyone eligible for funded healthcare may be able to get a 3 month supply of PrEP for up to $5.
However, not everyone in New Zealand is eligible for funded healthcare - and not everyone who is eligible for funded healthcare will be eligible for PrEP.
If you don't qualify, don't worry. Click here to find out your next steps.
5. Sexual health isn’t just about HIV
PrEP works, and it works incredibly well, but maintaining good sexual health while being as sexually active as you want means knowing the risks, and reducing them through regular testing, as well as maintaining condom use to protect against other STIs.
6. There’s a world of trusted, first-hand information out there
What about side effects? Or potential downsides? How easy is it to find a doctor to talk to about PrEP? You don’t have to explore PrEP alone – in fact with the cacophony of news and reports around, it can be daunting and incredibly confusing to simply dive head-first into the internet in search of information about PrEP.
Our website has plenty of advice and news about Kiwi-specific issues; alternatively, the PrEPing NZ group on Facebook brings together all threads of New Zealand’s PrEP community – such as experts, doctors, users and those who want to find out more about PrEP and its role in preventing the onward transmission of HIV – to discuss questions, offer qualified advice, and share personal insights and experiences in a safe network.