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PrEP for Patients

What is PrEP?

  • PrEP is short for pre-exposure prophylaxis. It involves the daily use of antiretroviral medications to prevent human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection. HIV can cause AIDS if left untreated.
  • PrEP is used by people who do not have HIV but who are at high-risk for acquiring HIV infection. PrEP can help protect you from getting HIV, especially when combined with other safer sex practices like using condoms.
  • Currently, two medications have been approved for PrEP: Truvada (emtricitabine and tenofovir disoproxil fumarate) and Descovy (emtricitabine and tenofovir alafenamide). Both medications are only available by prescription from a medical provider.

Who is PrEP recommended for?

  • PrEP is recommended for people who do not have HIV and are at high-risk for being exposed to HIV through having unprotected sex or injecting drugs.
  • PrEP can protect anyone whose sexual partner has HIV. It has been shown to work for both men and women, regardless of their gender or the gender of their sex partners. PrEP can also protect people who inject drugs and share their needles.
  • Your medical provider will decide which PrEP medication is best for you, based on your gender, risk factors, and laboratory tests. Currently, Descovy is not recommended for people who are at risk for HIV from receptive vaginal sex as the effectiveness of the medication in that population has not been evaluated.
  • PrEP cannot protect you from other sexually transmitted diseases, such as syphilis, gonorrhea, or chlamydia, and cannot protect you from other diseases that are spread through injection drug use, such as hepatitis C virus (also known as HCV).

How do you take PrEP?

  • Both PrEP medications, Truvada and Descovy, are taken daily as a pill.
  • Regardless of which PrEP medication you are on, PrEP must be taken daily to be effective.
  • Missing a daily dose of PrEP may reduce its effectiveness and put you at risk for HIV infection.

How can you access PrEP?

  • PrEP is a prescription drug and can only be prescribed by a medical provider such as a doctor, physician’s assistant (PA), or nurse practitioner (NP). Providers who prescribe PrEP do not need to be HIV specialists. If you have a primary care provider, you can speak to him/her about PrEP.
  • Before you start PrEP, your medical provider will order some lab tests to ensure that you do not already have HIV and that it is safe for you to start PrEP.
  • While you are on PrEP, you will need to continue to see a medical care provider for regular check-ups and HIV tests. Currently, CDC recommends that people on PrEP see their medical provider every 3 months.
  • To find a medical provider with PrEP expertise near you, visit the PrEP Locator. If you need additional assistance, please call the Alaska Section of Epidemiology at 907-269-8000 and ask to speak to someone from the HIV Program, or email the Program directly (prepak@alaska.gov).

How can you pay for PrEP?

  • There can be many costs associated with PrEP, including the cost of the medication, the cost for regular visits to see a medical provider, and the costs of required lab tests.
  • Many health insurance companies have been covering the costs associated with PrEP and the medication itself. Ask your health insurance company directly to see if PrEP and the associated costs will be covered under your health insurance plan.  
  • If you do not have health insurance, if your insurance will not cover PrEP, or if you have health insurance but your deductibles or co-pays are too high for you to pay, there are resources available to help you.
    • In December 2019, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced the new Ready, Set, PrEP Program, which makes PrEP medication available at no cost for qualifying recipients. Visit GetYourPrep.com or call 855-447-8410 to learn more.
    • Gilead’s Advancing Access Program (800-226-2056) offers a variety of programs, including co-pay support, financial support for persons on government insurance programs, and financial support for the uninsured. Additional information on utilizing the program specifically for PrEP can be found on Gilead's Paying for Truvada website.

Where can I learn more about PrEP?

Where can I find a healthcare provider to talk to about PrEP?