Social distancing is on the rise, which means your sexual activity may be on the decline. But that doesn’t mean you should stop taking PrEP. Here’s what you need to know about keeping yourself protected during the pandemic.
What is PrEP?
It’s a once-a-day pill for people who do not have HIV and want added protection. PrEP is available by prescription and must be taken every day to work effectively. Truvada was the first drug approved for use as PrEP for both men and women by the FDA in 2012. A second drug, Descovy, was approved for use by men in 2019.
PrEP is not approved to prevent COVID-19.
In fact, the FDA hasn’t approved any medications to prevent the new coronavirus—social distancing remains the most effective method. And remember: PrEP cannot protect you from pregnancy or infections such as gonorrhea, syphilis, hepatitis A, or hepatitis B.
If you’re currently on PrEP, don’t stop.
Someday, hopefully soon, life will return back to some state of normal and when it does, you’ll be protected. If you’ve stopped taking PrEP but want to restart, you’ll need to get tested to make sure you don’t have HIV. It will also take some time—anywhere between one week to one month—for PrEP to reach maximum effectiveness again.
Most clinics and healthcare providers are open during the pandemic.
If your doctor’s office or clinic is closed or is suspending services, ask for a referral or search for a location near you. Offices and clinics may have reduced hours and capacity—and many are enforcing strict social distancing and safety measures. Be sure to call ahead for details.
Ask about setting up a virtual visit.
Many offices and clinics are offering PrEP and other treatment services by phone or video chat. You’ll still need to get an HIV test before starting or continuing your PrEP regimen. Learn more about HIV and STD testing during the pandemic.
Request a longer supply of PrEP.
Ask your doctor about prescribing a 90-day supply of PrEP to cut down on future trips to the pharmacy.
Need help paying for PrEP?
Check out the Massachusetts Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis Drug Assistance Program (PrEPDAP), which can help cover the cost of your prescription. Gilead, the maker of Truvada and Descovy, may also be able to lower your cost to as little as $0. (Visit the Truvada or Descovy sites to learn more.)
Need help getting on PrEP?
These programs offer free or low-cost testing services in Massachusetts.