Here are some facts to clear up some of the most common questions around PrEP.
Myth: PrEP is really expensive
The price of PrEP has come down - a lot. Historically PrEP was only available as Truvada, a branded drug that costs $1,000+ per month. Fortunately, Health Canada approved the generic form of PrEP in 2016.
PrEP is covered in all provinces, except Manitoba. It is also covered by private insurance. For those using private insurance, here at Freddie we offer patients up to $100 of financial assistance per month regardless of your income level. As a result, PrEP is free or low cost for many Canadians. We also built a 1 minute PrEP self assessment that can give you personalized and instant feedback your eligibility for free or low cost, check it out here!
Myth: I won’t be able to tolerate PrEP because of side effects
While some mild side effects can occur with PrEP, they are most often temporary. These side effects could include headaches, nausea, abdominal discomfort, and other GI issues. Rarely, the medications in PrEP can cause reversible kidney issues - one of the reasons we check your blood every three months. Fortunately, less than 10% of people experience any side effects, and the majority of patients can continue without any issues or side effects.
The fear of side effects shouldn’t hold you back from trying PrEP. Regular check-ups with your provider will ensure that you are doing well while on PrEP, and that any side effects are managed.
Myth: PrEP is only for people who have multiple partners
There are a ton of different reasons to go on PrEP, and all of them are okay!
People from all walks of life take PrEP. Whether you use condoms, have multiple partners, or your loved one has HIV, PrEP is used by many people. The one thing they share in common is a desire to dramatically reduce their risk of acquiring HIV.
Myth: I can take PrEP just before having sex
There is a good reason this is a common question - it’s a bit complicated! Simply, we have a saying around PrEP: “some PrEP is better than no PrEP.”
If we go into more depth, the easiest and safest option is to take PrEP once every day. This ensures that you have up to 99% protection against HIV. But please feel free to ask your provider more about this.
Myth: On PrEP, I don’t need condoms
PrEP provides protection for HIV, but not for any other STDs or STIs. The choice whether to wear a condom or not is personal. However, if you want some protection against these other conditions, it is best to use PrEP and condoms. An added benefit of PrEP is the regular screening for infections when lab tests are done every 3 months, so we can reduce infection transmission.
Myth: Can PrEP be taken after sex (no, this is what PEP is for)
This one is not true. PrEP is for prevention. Taking PrEP after potential exposure provides no guarantee that you will not become infected with HIV. That is what PEP (post-exposure prophylaxis) is for. PEP is similar to PrEP, but it is a different medication, is taken for 28 days and must be started within 72 hours of whatever activity exposed you to HIV. If you think you have been exposed to HIV, please contact your local public health office or urgent care services.
Interestingly, PrEP is more effective than PEP.
If you know you are going to be taking part in any activity that puts you at a risk for HIV transmission or you have needed PEP before, it is recommended that you regularly take PrEP.
We are so glad you took a minute to be more informed about PrEP. Even this simple act shows you are taking control of your own heath.
If you have any more questions about PrEP and your own risk of HIV infection, feel free to book a free phone visit with one of our clinicians here at Freddie. We are here to assist you in making the decisions that are right for you, so you can be you.