Periodic PrEP – a new way to take PrEP

There are new ways to take PrEP that, when done right, are just as effective at preventing HIV as taking it daily. For real!

That means, if you have ever felt that taking PrEP daily just wasn’t for you, there could now be an option – such as periodic PrEP – that might be the right fit. Same pill, just a new way of taking it.

Curious if periodic PrEP could be the right option for you? Answer a few questions in our PrEP dosing frequency tool and see if it’s your recommended option.

What is periodic PrEP?

Instead of having to take PrEP long-term, with periodic PrEP, you take it once a day over a period of time when you want to protect yourself from HIV. It can be however long or short that works for you – usually when you think you might be having lots of sex.

This could be anywhere from a couple weeks strung together while you have a fuckbuddy visiting or during a Mardi Gras party season, to a month or so while on a holiday. Or even at the end of a relationship when you might find yourself having more frequent casual sex.

Trying PrEP on a periodic basis could also be a good option if you are unsure, for whatever reason, about taking PrEP longer-term.

Sure, jumping onto a medication when you are otherwise healthy can sometimes seem unnecessary, and indeed some guys may have concerns about toxicity, but the combination drug that makes up the modern PrEP pill is extremely safe with low rates of side-effects. So, starting PrEP on a periodic basis could be a great way to ease yourself into taking PrEP. If you do experience side-effects, you can speak with your doctor to help manage them, or safely stop taking PrEP altogether, no sweat!

How to start and stop periodic PrEP

If you’ve never taken PrEP before or took PrEP in the past but have stopped, before starting periodic PrEP you’ll need to book an appointment with your doctor to get a baseline test for HIV and other STIs, assess your kidney health, and get a script for PrEP. Thereafter, visiting your doctor every 3 months should become routine.

You can pick up your PrEP either through a pharmacy or online through the personal importation scheme (for more information check out PrEP Access Now).

Then, depending on how you identify, starting and stopping periodic PrEP will vary.

For cis guys who have sex with guys

To start:

  • Take 2 pills (double dose) at least 2 hours before sex, then
  • Take 1 pill every 24 hours after the double dose for the duration of the period you need protection.

Then to stop, after your last hook-up:

  • Take 1 pill daily for 2 days. If you have sex during this period, this resets the 2 days.

For everyone else

For other folk, such as trans people who hook-up with other guys, to start:

  • Take 1 pill daily for a full 7 days before sex.

Then to stop, after your last hook-up:

  • Take 1 pill daily for 28 days. If you have sex during this period, this resets the 28 days.

If you have any questions about PrEP dosing or need specific advice, call the NSW Sexual Health Infolink (1800 451 624) or speak with your prescribing doctor.

Pro-tip: make sure you have enough PrEP

To use periodic PrEP safely, you need to have ample stock of pills at any given time. That means ensuring you always have your PrEP handy, and if you plan on taking PrEP, for example, 5 weeks long, be sure you have 5 weeks of PrEP! Simple maths, right? Because remember: PrEP works – but only if you have the pills to take.

Interested in other ways to take PrEP? Learn all about how to take PrEP on-demand or read all about daily PrEP.