What to Expect: Starting PrEP
Whether you’ve already made an appointment with your healthcare provider to get PrEP or you’re considering it, here are a few things you can expect before, during, and after your first appointment.
First, what is PrEP?
PrEP, short for pre-exposure prophylaxis, is a medicine that helps prevent HIV. When taken as prescribed, PrEP is highly effective at preventing HIV. However, PrEP is not for people who are living with HIV.
Since it’s not available over the counter, your doctor or healthcare provider must prescribe it.
Making the appointment
Getting PrEP often requires an in-person visit with a healthcare provider. Contact your healthcare provider or a local health clinic to schedule an appointment. If you don’t have a healthcare provider, use the PrEP + Services Locator to search health clinics near you.
Most health insurance plans, including MassHealth, cover the cost of PrEP, which includes clinic visits, prescriptions, and laboratory tests. Check with your insurance company to find out if your plan covers PrEP.
If you don’t have health insurance, you may be able to get assistance for HIV PrEP prescriptions through the Massachusetts Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis Drug Assistance Program (PrEPDAP).
Before your appointment
Here are a few of the things you should bring to your appointment:
- Your license or photo ID
- Proof of medical insurance (if you have insurance)
- Prescription insurance card (if separate from medical insurance card)
- List of medications you currently take (both prescribed and over-the-counter)
- List of medication allergies
During your appointment
Your doctor may conduct a routine physical exam during your visit, which may include tests for HIV, STDs, and kidney function. They may also ask questions about your medical and sexual history, such as:
- Have you recently experienced a potential exposure to HIV?
- Do you have anal or vaginal sex without a condom?
- Do any of your partners have sex with other people without a condom?
- Have you or any of your partners had an STD in the past six months?
- Are any of your partners HIV-positive and not undetectable?
- Do you use drugs before or during sex?
- Do you or any of your partners share needles or works?
- Do you have sex for money, drugs, a place to stay, or anything else you need?
In addition, your healthcare provider may ask why you’re interested in PrEP and may discuss potential side effects and common misperceptions.
While PrEP has been around since 2012, some healthcare providers may not be familiar with PrEP or may not prescribe it. Learn more about talking to your healthcare provider about PrEP.
If your regular healthcare provider doesn’t prescribe PrEP, use the PrEP + Services Locator to find a clinic near you that does.
After your appointment
You must be HIV negative to use PrEP. Talk to your doctor about whether it is possible to get your PrEP prescription while you are waiting for your test results. It’s common to experience side effects during the first few weeks of taking PrEP, including loss of appetite, vomiting, headache, nausea, rash, dizziness, fatigue, and stomach issues.
Once you start taking PrEP, you’ll need to follow up with your healthcare provider as recommended to repeat HIV and STD testing. Talk to your provider about scheduling appointments in advance so that there’s no disruption to your regimen.