2 min

Six fast facts to know before starting PrEP

Clearing up confusion surrounding the HIV-prevention drug

BC’s Health Initiative for Men advocates for low-cost PrEP to be accessible for people most at risk of contracting HIV. Credit: Courtesy GETPrEPED

PrEP, or pre-exposure prophylaxis, has been making headlines in the gay community ever since Truvada was approved as an on-label medication for HIV prevention — it’s also been raising a lot of questions in our community.

That’s where GETPrEPED comes in. The campaign, run by Health Initiative for Men (HIM), hopes to provide answers and clear up misconceptions surrounding PrEP. It also aims to get the drug on British Columbia’s provincial drug plan. Through advocacy and education, its goal is to make PrEP a low-cost medication that is easily accessible for people most at risk of contracting HIV.

What is it?
PrEP is a once-daily pill (Truvada) used to prevent HIV infection and transmission. While other medications besides Truvada are being researched, only Truvada for PrEP has been rigorously studied and approved for use in HIV prevention by Health Canada.

Is it safe?
Studies show that PrEP is safe and very well tolerated for most guys. In fact, less than one percent of PrEP users report having any side effects, and the number with serious side effects is even lower.

How effective is it?
When taken consistently and correctly, PrEP is 90–99 percent effective at preventing the transmission of HIV. That number is even higher with the additional use of condoms.

How do you get it?
PrEP must be taken under a medical provider’s care as it requires important tests both before and during treatment. PrEP should be taken for at least one week before having any kind of sex that could involve HIV being passed to a partner, and a medical provider should be consulted before ending treatment.

How much does it cost?
Some guys get PrEP covered by private insurance, and others might be eligible to receive PrEP through local research studies on the pill. For guys who can’t access PrEP any other way, (and when other prevention methods aren’t feasible, accessible, or effective) generic importation is an option that can significantly reduce costs.

Will it prevent STIs?
No, PrEP does not protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Condoms are the most effective safer sex method currently available to prevent the transmission of STIs. Sexually active gay guys should get tested for all STIs every 3–6 months, regardless of PrEP use.

Visit for more information about PrEP, a list of all the tests you’ll need before and after you get started and tips on how to talk to your doctor about PrEP.