What is PrEP?

What is Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP)?

  • “PrEP” stands for Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis. The word “prophylaxis” means “to prevent or control the spread of an infection or disease”
  • PrEP is a medication for people who don’t have Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and want to reduce their risk of getting HIV before an exposure through sex or sharing needles/syringes.
  • PrEP contains medicines that are also used to treat HIV
  • There are different types of PrEP and ways to take it:
    • Oral tenofovir disoproxil fumarate/emtricitabine (TDF/FTC) [Truvada®]* – Daily pill or On-Demand PrEP
    • Oral tenofovir alafenamide/emtricitabine (TAF-FTC) [Descovy®]* – Daily pill
    • Injectable cabotegravir (CAB-LA) [Apretude®] – Bi-monthly injection.

How does PrEP work?

  • If you take PrEP and are exposed to HIV, it works by building up protection in your body to fight off the virus from taking hold in your body.
  • Studies have shown that PrEP reduces the risk of getting HIV by about 99% from sex and at least 74% from injection drug use, when taken as prescribed.
  • PrEP does not protect against other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) or pregnancy – condoms are still recommended every time you have sex.

Is PrEP Right for Me?

  • PrEP can help you prevent HIV if you have tested negative for HIV, and are:
    • Sexually active
    • Sharing injection drug equipment
    • Experiencing intimate partner violence
  • PrEP has been shown to work for people of all genders and sexualities.
  • PrEP is an additional prevention tool if your partner is living with HIV.
  • If you regularly worry about HIV, ask your provider for a prescription for PrEP.

Is PrEP Safe?

  • Adults and adolescents (ages 12and up) can safely use PrEP.
  • A medical provider will need to conduct lab work in order to determine if there are any conditions that may prevent you from taking PrEP.
  • PrEP is only for people who do not have HIV.
  • Like with any medication, there may be minor side effects. Some people get an upset stomach when they first start taking PrEP.

How is my PrEP prescription paid for?

  • PrEP is covered by public (e.g. Medi-Cal, Medi-Care) and private (e.g. Kaiser, Anthem, HealthNet) health insurance plans.
  • Most major health insurance plans in California are required to cover oral PrEP medications and associated medical services (lab work and clinic visits) with no cost sharing to the patient.
    • Note: Injectable PrEP is still not fully required to be covered by private insurance plans. Please contact your local PrEP Center of Excellence to learn more about covering injectable PrEP with your private insurance plan. Injectable PrEP is coveredby Medi-Cal and can be accessed for free for people who are uninsured.
  • If you do not have, or are not eligible for health insurance, PrEP is still available at low or no cost. Immigration status does not prevent you from accessing these services.
  • The PrEP Assistance Program (PrEP AP) is the State of California’s assistance program for the prevention of HIV. It covers things like co-pays for PrEP, medications for STI treatment (and even for PrEP under certain conditions) and other out of pocket costs related to medical services, such as HIV testing and STI screening. To learn more about PrEP AP, please visit: https://www.cdph.ca.gov/Programs/CID/DOA/Pages/OA_adap_resources_prepAP.aspt
  • The Ready-Set-PrEP Federal Program will also cover the cost of name brand oral medications for people who have no insurance. To learn more about Ready-Set-PrEP, please visit: https://readysetprep.hiv.gov/

How do I find a medical provider who will prescribe PrEP?

  • Any licensed medical doctor, nurse practitioner, or physician assistant can prescribe PrEP. If you have a provider that you see regularly, talk to them about prescribing PrEP.
  • If you do not currently have a medical provider, you can find one here: pleasePrEPme.org
  • Please note that the inclusion of medical providers in this directory is voluntary and it does not serve as an endorsement or certification by the County of Los Angeles Department of Public Health.

I Have a Medical Provider, What do I Need to Know?

  • If you are interested in speaking with a medical provider to see if PrEP is right for you, try speaking with your primary care provider first. Check out these tips on talking to your doctor.
  • If you wish to see a different medical provider, you can find one here: pleasePrEPme.org.

Can I start taking PrEP before seeing a doctor?

  • Under California’s new law, Senate Bill 159, pharmacists are authorized to dispense PrEP and PEP without a prescription, this allows them to administer 30 to 60 days of the drugs after testing and counseling. In addition, the law directs pharmacists to connect individuals to physicians for long-term care.

What Else do I Need to Know?

  • You’ll have to take an HIV test before starting PrEP to make sure you do not have HIV.
  • People who use PrEP to reduce their risk of HIV must be able to take the medication as prescribed and instructed.
  • While you are on PrEP, you will need to see a health care provider for regular check-ups (every 3 months for oral PrEP or every 2 months for injectable PrEP) for repeat HIV/STI screenings, lab tests, and prescription refills.
  • Condoms provide additional protection against HIV and other STIs and pregnancy. If you live in Los Angeles County and would like to find free condoms, please visit our LA Condom website. Teenagers can have condoms mailed to them by visiting https://www.teensource.org/