PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis)
PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) is a pill taken by HIV-negative people before and after sex that protects them from getting HIV.
How PrEP works
When taken as recommended PrEP stops HIV from taking hold if it enters the body during sex or from sharing needles to inject drugs.
How effective is PREP?
PrEP is up to 100% effective if you take it as instructed.
The usual and most common way to take PrEP is to take one tablet per day.
You have to take PrEP for at least 7 days before sex without a condom so it gets to levels that give you protection. After sex, you will need to continue taking the drugs for an additional 7 days at least.
You can start and stop taking PrEP for as long you feel you need to protect yourself from HIV. All you need to do is remember how to start and stop safely.
Some studies have looked at different ways of taking PrEP, but taking one tablet per day is the only recommended method for women.
Before taking PrEP you should be tested for HIV to ensure that you are HIV negative.
PrEP and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
PrEP won’t protect you from other STIs or an unwanted pregnancy, which condoms would.
It’s important if you’re using PrEP that you go for regular STI screenings every three months.
PrEP is safe to take with the contraceptive pill.
Are there side-effects?
The drugs used in PrEP are the same drugs that are prescribed to thousands of people living with HIV every year. They’re very safe and significant side effects are very rare.
A few people experience nausea, headaches or tiredness and, very rarely, the medication can affect kidney function. As a precaution, people taking PrEP have regular kidney function tests.
Where to get PrEP
From October 2020 PrEP began to be available for free from some sexual health clinics in England. You should check with your local service to find out if they are providing PrEP yet.
If you’re thinking about getting PrEP from outside the NHS there are a number of things to consider, you can find more information from I Want PrEP Now.
Find out if PrEP is right for you
Answer some short questions about yourself and your sexual activities and we’ll recommend whether PrEP is right for you.