Veteran's Health Library Menu

Health Encyclopedia

Are You PrEPared to Prevent HIV? 

Hand holding a bottle of pills in front of a bathroom sink and mirror

What is PrEP?

  • Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) is a medicine that is taken once daily to help lower the risk of being infected with HIV.

  • A combination pill containing tenofovir and emtracitibine (Truvada®) is approved for PrEP when used in combination with other prevention methods like condoms.

  • Taking PrEP daily lowers the risk of getting HIV from sex by more than 90% and among people who inject drugs by more than 70%.

Is PrEP Right for You?

  • Do you have unprotected sex with multiple partners?

  • Is your partner HIV positive or do you not know the HIV status of your partner(s)?

  • Are you a man who has sex with men?

  • Do you inject drugs and share needles or injection equipment?

  • Do you exchange sex for something you need, such as food, shelter, or money?

If you answered YES to any of these questions and are HIV negative, you may benefit from PrEP.

What happens if PrEP is right for me?

  • Your healthcare provider will talk with you about any risk factors you have for getting HIV. 

  • An HIV test will be ordered to determine if you already have HIV. People who have HIV are not eligible for PrEP, and should see an HIV specialist.

  • Laboratory tests will be performed to see if you can safely take PrEP.

  • If you are a woman who is considering starting PrEP, you will be offered a pregnancy test.  PrEP is considered safe in pregnancy but you should discuss the full risks and benefits with your healthcare provider.

How does it work?

  • PrEP works by blocking the ability of HIV to multiply.

  • It is most effective when taken daily.

  • When taking PrEP, you will need to have a test for HIV at least every 3 months and other laboratory tests every 6 months.

  • If you have hepatitis B infection, it is important that you do not stop taking PrEP without first speaking to your healthcare provider.

What are the possible side effects from PrEP?

  • PrEP is well tolerated.

  • Nausea and dizziness can happen but are more common during the first month.

What else can I do to reduce my HIV risk?

 Hand holding a wrapped condom

  • PrEP is used in combination with other ways to reduce your HIV risk. Even if you decide that PrEP is not right for you, there are ways to reduce your risk of HIV. These include:

    • Knowing the HIV status of sexual and injecting partners

    • Using barrier methods (for example, condoms) every time you have sex

    • Seeking drug treatment and using clean needles, if you are injecting

Where can I find more information?

PrEP: Frequently Asked Questions

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention PrEP Basics

San Francisco City Clinic – Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP)

Project Inform

Talk to your healthcare provider to see if PrEP would help you.

Author: StayWell Custom Communications
Last Annual Review Date: 6/1/2018
Help improve the VHL. Share your opinions! Click here for brief survey

VHL Web Tour Video - Opens in a pop up window

Copyright © The StayWell Company, LLC. except where otherwise noted.
Disclaimer - Opens 'Disclaimer' in Dialog Window | Help | About Veterans Health Library