What is PrEP?

PrEP is the use of antiretroviral drugs, taken by HIV negative people to prevent HIV infection. PrEP is an acronym that stands for pre exposure prophylaxis and is an exciting new tool that will play a vital role in our efforts to end HIV in NSW by 2020. Unlike post exposure prophylaxis (PEP) which is taken after a potential exposure to HIV, PrEP is taken on an ongoing basis and it provides protection against HIV. Studies from around the world have shown that if PrEP is taken daily, it prevents HIV in advance to any potential exposure.

  • PrEP allows guys to be in control of their HIV status. Control means more confidence all round.
  • PrEP provides around the clock protection against HIV. When you take PrEP once a day you are always protected.
  • PrEP relieves stress and anxiety that can be associated with sex. When you’re with that special guy, PrEP allows you to connect and be in the moment.

Neg or pos, we all share responsibility for HIV prevention. With PrEP, negative guys have an additional tool that they can use to proactively be in control of their HIV status. When PrEP is in the equation, positive guys can be confident that their partners are well protected.

Is PrEP for you?

There are now a variety of ways that you can choose to stay safe when having sex. Choosing a strategy that suits you and your personal circumstance is crucial. Whether you choose to use condoms, take PrEP or rely on treatment as prevention, it is important that your choice is an informed one.

PrEP is recommended for people who are at high risk of acquiring HIV. Clinical guidelines stipulate that PrEP should be prescribed to HIV negative people who are at an ongoing risk of acquiring HIV. These people might be gay or other same-sex attracted men who do not always use condoms with casual partners when having anal sex. In NSW, you can find out more about how to access PrEP through the EPIC-NSW Study here.

You must be HIV negative and an HIV test should always be performed before you start taking PrEP. Book a HIV test at a[TEST] here.

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EPIC-NSW PrEP factsheet

There are different ways to protect yourself from getting HIV/AIDS. Using condoms when you have sex is the most common way. The EPIC-NSW PrEP factsheet below answers some of the most common questions about PrEP. A copy of this factsheet is also available for download in pdf format in the following languages:

What is PrEP?

PrEP stands for Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis. This is a way of protecting yourself from getting HIV by taking a tablet once a day every day.PrEP does not prevent you from other infections that you can get when having sex, so it is still important to use condoms to be protected from these.

Who is PrEP for?

PrEP is recommended for people who are at high risk of getting HIV. You are at high risk if you:

  • Are a man who has anal sex with other men and do not always use a condom.
  • Have a heterosexual partner who has HIV and you want to have a baby.
  • Are someone whose partner has HIV, but is not taking HIV medication, and you don’t always use a condom. PrEP can help you to worry less about getting HIV.

How well does PrEP protect me from getting HIV?

PrEP works very well if you take it every day. You should try to take it at the same time each day.

If you don’t take the tablets every day, you may not be as well protected against HIV. Your doctor can give you more information.

How long do I have to take PrEP before I’m protected from getting HIV?

This depends on the type of sex you are having. If you are a man who has sex with men, you will be protected after taking PrEP every day for 7 days.

If you are a woman, you will need to take it every day for 20 days before you are protected. Your doctor can give you more information.

Does PrEP have side effects?

Not everyone will have side effects. Most people won’t have any. Side effects can include nausea, dizziness, headaches, tiredness, stomach cramps and diarrhoea. Usually, these stop after a few weeks. If they last longer you should see your doctor.

Are there any long – term side effects?

Most people who take PrEP do not have any serious problems. However, taking PrEP for a long time can affect your kidneys, so it’s important that these are checked. Your doctor will do a blood test every three months while you are taking PrEP to check this.

If I take PrEP do I have to take it forever?

No, you don’t. You can stop and start PrEP as your life and risk of getting HIV changes. You should only take PrEP during the times you are at high risk of getting HIV.

For example: you might take PrEP when you are having a lot of different sexual partners or you are trying to have a baby. You can stop taking PrEP when that changes.

Can I take PrEP if I am trying to get pregnant?

Yes, you can. If you are trying to get pregnant and your partner has HIV, you can take PrEP to protect yourself and your baby from HIV.

To be protected from HIV you must take PrEP every day for 20 days before you and your partner have sex without a condom. You must take it every day while you are trying to get pregnant and keep taking PrEP for 30 days after the last time you have sex without a condom.

Taking PrEP will not stop you from getting pregnant. If you are a woman with HIV and your partner does not have HIV, your partner can take PrEP to protect himself when you have sex without a condom. Your doctor can give you more information.

Can I take PrEP if I am taking other medications?

Yes. It’s usually safe to take PrEP and other medications at the same time, but you should always check with your doctor.

How can I get PrEP

To get PrEP you need to see a doctor who is experienced in HIV to find out if PrEP is right for you. The doctor will ask you questions about your sexual life to see if you are at high risk of getting HIV. The doctor will keep your personal information private and confidential.

If you are at high risk, the doctor will do:

  • A HIV test. If this shows that you already have HIV, you should not take PrEP.
  • A hepatitis B test. If you have chronic hepatitis B you may need to see another specialist doctor before you know if you can take PrEP.
  • Kidney tests (blood tests), as these can be affected by the PrEP medication.
  • Tests for other infections you can get from having sex.

If PrEP is right for you, the doctor will give you a prescription and explain the different ways that you can get PrEP.

The EPIC-NSW Study

EPIC-NSW is a study run by the Kirby Institute, in collaboration with a number of partners, which aims to assess the impact of the rapid expansion in access to PrEP amongst those at high risk of acquiring HIV.

The trial will enrol 3,700 people at high risk of acquiring HIV – the vast majority of whom will be gay and bisexual men. Study participants will receive 24 months of PrEP free of charge. They will be required to attend three monthly follow ups that will include a full sexual health screen and HIV tests.

If you would like to access PrEP through the EPIC-NSW study the first step you need to take is to call the PrEP Info Line on 1800 451 624 to be assessed for eligibility. A clinician will make an assessment and if eligible you will be referred onto an intake appointment.

EPIC-NSW clinics are located in both regional and urban areas of NSW.

Access Through Personal Importation

Some people may not meet the strict eligibility criteria of the EPIC-NSW study but still be interested in accessing PrEP. For those people, personal importation of generic PrEP might be the most affordable option. To import PrEP from overseas you must:

  • Discuss PrEP with a doctor to determine if PrEP is right for you.
  • Have an HIV test before beginning PrEP.
  • Get a valid Australian issued prescription to accompany the medicine being imported.
  • Ensure that the website you want to purchase from is legitimate and sources PrEP from a WHO approved source.
  • Arrange for the medicine to be sent to you from an overseas supplier family member/ friend.
  • Manage ongoing importation with your clinician. This process will involve continued testing for HIV and other STIs.

For more detailed information on personal importation download this resource.

EPIC–NSW

A research study called EPIC-NSW is taking place in New South Wales. People who join the study will get PrEP for free for two years.
The study is only for people at high risk of getting HIV. This means that a doctor or nurse will ask you questions about your sexual life to see if you can join.

If the doctor or nurse says you cannot join the study, they will explain other ways you can get PrEP.

How can I get more information about PrEP?

The NSW Sexual Health Info Link is a phone service that can:

  • Give you more information about PrEP and the EPIC study
  • Help you understand if PrEP is right for you
  • Help you find a doctor who is experienced in HIV and who knows about PrEP

The Australasian Society of HIV, Viral Hepatitis and Sexual Health Medicine (ASHM) have posted the Australian National PrEP Guidelines on the ASHM website. Click here to read more.

For more information on importing medicines for personal see the Australian Government’s Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) website.

Living Positive Victoria has produced a resource to assist people with HIV to talk to their friends and partners about PrEP which is on their website.

ACON
9206 2000
acon@acon.org.au

Positive Life
9206 2177
1800 245 677 (freecall)

If you would like to speak to someone in your own language, call the Translating and Interpreting Service (TIS) on 131 450 to ask for an interpreter in your language and then ask them to call the NSW Sexual Health Info Line on 1800 451 624.

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