Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP)is a preventive medication to protect you from contracting HIV.
People who are HIV-negative can take PrEP to reduce their risk of getting HIV. Many studies have confirmed that PrEP is more than 99% effective at preventing HIV transmission when taken as directed.
People at risk of HIV are eligible for PrEP, including sexually active gay and bisexual men and transgender people, and anyone who has sexual partners of unknown HIV status, or from countries with a high incidence of HIV.
Generic brand Emtricitabine/Tenofovir is the only PBS approved PrEP treatment in Australia. Find out more by visiting the AFAO site Get PrEP’D.
Daily Dose, On Demand or Periodic?
Daily PrEP:PrEP can be taken as a daily dose so that you are protected against HIV transmission all the time. This option means whenever sex happens you have HIV prevention covered. Another benefit is that you can get fit PrEP into your daily routine to avoid missing a dose.
On-Demand PrEP describes how some people choose to only use PrEP when they know there is a chance they may be exposed to HIV for a short-term period. Also known at 2-1-1 PrEP, On-demand means using fewer pills at specific times over a few days. For example, if you need protection for one evening or a weekend, you can take PrEP before, during, and after this period only. The PrEP Guidelines recommend taking two tablets between 2 and 24 hours before your first sexual contact, and then one tablet daily after that. Continue to take one daily tablet for a minimum of 48hrs after your last sexual contact. This method may not be appropriate for transmen. For more detail about how PrEP on Demand works, check out these two websites:
Periodic PrEP: Periodic PrEP is similar to Daily PrEP, but you only take it for a limited time (like for a holiday or the Mardi Gras period). Periodic PrEP starts by taking two tablets between 2 and 24 hours before your first sexual contact, and then one tablet daily after that. Continue to take one daily tablet for a minimum of 48hrs after your last sexual contact.
Talk to your doctor about which way will suit your lifestyle.
How Can I Get PrEP?
PrEP is available in Australia with a prescription. That prescription needs to come from a General Practitioner (GP) or at a sexual health clinic after a full sexual health screening. PrEP is available through the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) for anyone with a Medicare card. For more information about what this means, please see the AFAO PrEP Factsheet.
The screening will be repeated with every visit to check not only for HIV but also for any other sexually transmissible infections (STIs). You can find a doctor in your area to consult about PrEP by visiting the PAN website. Websites such as PrEPaccessNOW can also help people connect to pharmacies.
What If I Am Not Eligible For Medicare?
Personally importing PrEP is still an option. Click here to find out more via ASHM and AFAO. PrEP can be purchased and imported through online pharmacies with a prescription. STRIP Clinic and Canberra Sexual Health Centre can provide information on self-importation, prescriptions, and help you to look after your health while on PrEP, along with regular sexual health check-ups.
If you’re not sure whether you can afford PrEP, please contact us. You may be eligible for a PrEP coupon through the Green Cross Pharmacy partnership. More about this program here.
Is PrEP For Me?
In Australia, sexually active gay and bisexual men, transgender people and heterosexual people with an HIV-positive partner who does not have an undetectable viral load are population groups that are at higher risk. If you are not using PrEP, and you think you are at high risk of HIV, you should see your doctor or visit a sexual health clinic to assess whether PrEP will benefit you. For more information, ASHM (Australian Sexual Health Medicine) has developed clinical guidelines to assist doctors in making decisions about prescribing PrEP.
Do I Need To Use Condoms When On PrEP?
Condoms protect against more than HIV, providing users with safety from a number of other STIs. You should have an honest, open discussion with your sexual partner/s about sexual health, taking care of yourself and taking care of each other, and make a decision about protection you are both comfortable with. Regular sexual health testing is a great idea for anyone who is sexually active. To find out more about access to sexual health testing in the ACT, click here.
If you would like to discuss if PrEP is for you, contact us on 02 6257 2855 or Canberra Sexual Health Centre on 02 6244 2184.