Thank you for your question. It’s great that you are being proactive about your sexual health! As you may know, PrEP stands for Pre-exposure prophylaxis. It is a pill that must be taken every day to be effective in preventing HIV and it is prescribed to people who are at a greater risk of coming in contact with HIV. “Pre-exposure” means that it works to prevent HIV before a person is exposed to the virus (before they have unprotected sex or inject drugs). For this reason, a person must have a negative HIV test before they can start the medicine. If taken correctly, PrEP can lower the risk of HIV from sex by 90% but it does not prevent other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) such as chlamydia, gonorrhea, herpes, hepatitis and HPV. Using condoms correctly every time you have sex, and having fewer partners lowers your risk of getting HIV and most STIs; however, the only way to be 100% sure of not getting HIV or another STI is not to have sex.
You can now take PrEP before you turn, 18 but it isn’t right for everyone so talk to your health care provider to find out if it’s right for you. Even though you might feel embarrassed to start a conversation about your sexual health, remember that what you tell your health care provider (HCP) is private and their job is to help you stay healthy. Tell your HCP that you are interested in learning about PrEP and why. It’s also important to let your HCP know about any prescription and nonprescription medicines that you are taking as well as other reasons that might put you at a greater risk for HIV.
There is also another medicine called “PEP” which stands for Post-Exposure Prophylaxis. It’s a medicine (pill) that is taken within 72 hours after possible exposure to HIV such as having intercourse (vaginal or anal) without using a condom with a partner that has or likely has HIV, or if you were exposed while injecting drugs. If you are HIV negative and think you may have been exposed to someone with HIV, you should go to a clinic or emergency room. PEP works best the sooner it is taken.
Learn more about PrEP and PEP here: