6 Myths about PrEP

Authors:

Dr. Caley Shukalek
Dr. Husein Moloo

When it comes to PrEP, there can be a lot of confusion. While it’s great that more people are finding out about PrEP through word of mouth, that means that a lot of misinformation also passes through word of mouth.

It’s great that more people are finding out about PrEP, but word of mouth can lead to misinformation.
In a recent survey conducted by Freddie, we heard 13 different definitions of PrEP from 50 people. 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.

As of 2020, if you meet some simple criteria, PrEP is covered in all provinces, except Manitoba. It is also covered by private insurance. As a result, PrEP is free or low cost for many Canadians.

Myth: I won’t be able to tolerate PrEP because of side effects

While some mild side effects are common 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, over 90% of people get used to the medication and are able to 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 physician 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 doctor 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.

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. (https://prepfacts.org/prep/the-questions/)

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.

Conclusion:

Now that we’ve cleared up some of the most common myths, consider making an appointment with your doctor or speaking to one virtually with Freddie. You can do so here.

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