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What is PrEP?

PrEP, or Pre Exposure Prophylaxis is a course of HIV drugs (called Truvada) taken by HIV negative people before sex to prevent them from getting HIV.

Results in trials have been very successful, with PrEP significantly lowering the risk of becoming HIV positive and without major side effects. In trials, if people took the pills as prescribed, the protection PrEP provided from HIV is close to 100%.

In clinical trials PrEP has been used in two different ways:

  • taken regularly (one tablet per day)
  • only taken when needed (two tablets two to 24 hours before sex, one tablet 24 hours after sex and a further tablet 48 hours after sex). This is often called ‘on-demand’ or ‘event based’ dosing.

Both methods have been shown to be very effective, although on–demand dosing has only been studied in gay and bisexual men.

PrEP does not protect people from other STIs, and people on PrEP should get regular full STI screens taken to look after their wider sexual health.

Is PrEP right for me?

PrEP has been shown to be most useful for people who are at high risk of getting HIV. This includes people who might have difficulties with regular condom usage from communities which are disproportionately affected by HIV, such as:

  • Gay and bisexual men
  • Black Africans
  • Trans people
  • Those in a relationship with an HIV positive partner who are not on successful treatment.

It is important for people on PrEP to be able to:

  • take the medication as prescribed
  • go for a HIV test and kidney function tests at a sexual health clinic before starting PrEP
  • attend for general STI tests regularly

How can I get PrEP?

PrEP on the NHS

At the moment, PrEP is not available on the NHS. However, NHS England has announced an extended trial of PrEP for 10,000 people over the next 3 years. It is expected that the trial will start over the summer, with a possible start date in summer 2017.

Unity Sexual Health is expected to participate in the trial.

Please check back on this page for more details.

Buying generic PrEP online

Some people are also buying cheaper, generic versions of Truvada (called Recovir-EM or Tenvir-EM) from online pharmacies. If you live in the UK it is legal to buy and import PrEP as long as it is for personal use, and you buy no more then three months supply at once .

Some UK sexual health clinics have been undertaking drug level testing on people who have been ordering generic PrEP online to check the validity of the drugs. Reports indicate that good levels of active drug have been reported so far, with it being recommended that people stick to ordering types of generic PrEP which are listed on the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Iwantprepnow lists current sources of online generic PrEP which has been previously validated by drug level testing from these sexual health clinics.

If you’re thinking about getting PrEP from outside the NHS it’s important that you talk to a health adviser at Unity. We will be able to support you to use the treatment safely and provide necessary tests  before starting PrEP (such as a HIV test and kidney function test), and help with ongoing STI screens and monitoring.

PrEP monitoring at Unity Sexual Health

If you are planning to start taking PrEP, or are already taking PrEP and require monitoring, please attend a Unity Sexual Health Clinic.

Before starting PrEP, it is advised that you:

  • Have a HIV test to make sure you are HIV negative
  • Have kidney function tests
  • Have a full sexual health screen
  • Chat to one of our health advisers to talk about taking PrEP safely

If you are already taking PrEP, we can:

  • Monitor your kidney function
  • Offer a full sexual health screen every 3 months
  • Offer an HIV test every 3 months
  • Offer a discussion with ours health advisers about safer sex

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