PrEP

updated 2 weeks ago in HIV Prevention

It’s important to have a strategy to help stop the spread of HIV – the good news is there are options to suit you.

You can use different options in different circumstances, or even use a combination.

Choose the HIV strategy that best suits your lifestyle, the sex you enjoy and your HIV status. Your best HIV prevention strategy is the one you can use consistently and correctly.

What is PrEP?

PrEP stands for pre-exposure prophylaxis. It’s a pill that combines two anti-HIV medications, which can help protect you from getting HIV.

Using PrEP is part of a managed sexual health program that involves using prescription medication and checking in with a doctor every three months.

How does PrEP work?

PrEP works by providing HIV protection at a cellular level inside your body. This stops the virus from establishing an infection if you come in contact with it.

What sort of protection does PrEP provide?

When used correctly, PrEP provides highly effective protection from HIV.

PrEP does not protect against any other STIs.

How do I use PrEP?

There are now three approved ways to use PrEP. All of them involve taking the same PrEP pills, but according to different regimes. When used correctly, all options provide the same level of highly effective protection from HIV. Talk to your doctor about the best PrEP option for you.

Daily PrEP

Daily PrEP involves taking one pill, once a day for constant HIV protection.

Daily PrEP is suitable for most HIV-negative men who have sex with men.

If you’re a cisgender man, to start daily PrEP, take two PrEP pills at once — a double dose — between two and 24 hours before you have sex. Then continue taking one PrEP pill every day. To stop, take one pill every day for two days after you last have sex.

If you’re a trans man, start daily PrEP by taking one pill every day for seven days before you have sex. Then continue taking one PrEP pill every day. To stop, take one pill every day for 28 days after you last have sex.

Periodic PrEP

Periodic PrEP is similar to daily PrEP but over a specific period (perhaps for a week or two during festival season or on holiday).

Periodic PrEP is suitable for most HIV-negative men who have sex with men.

If you’re a cisgender man, to start periodic PrEP, take two PrEP pills at once — a double dose — a minimum of two hours and a maximum of 24 hours before sex. Then continue taking one PrEP pill every 24 hours after the initial double dose. It is safe to stop using periodic PrEP by taking one pill a day for two days after the last time you have sex.

If you’re a trans man, start periodic PrEP by taking one PrEP pill every day for seven days before you have sex. Then continue taking one PrEP pill every 24 hours. It is safe to stop using periodic PrEP by taking one pill a day for 28 days after the last time you have sex.

On-demand PrEP

On-demand PrEP is HIV protection for a very short period, usually a single sexual encounter. On-demand PrEP consists of three doses, taken at specific times:

  1. Take two pills (a double dose) between two and 24 hours before sex
  2. Take one pill 24 hours after the first double dose
  3. Take one pill 24 hours after the second dose

On-demand PrEP is suitable for you if you’re a cisgender man who has sex with other men and:

  • you’d prefer to use on-demand PrEP instead of other PrEP options
  • you have sex less than twice a week
  • you can plan or delay sex for at least two hours
  • you don’t have chronic hepatitis B

If you’re a trans man, on-demand PrEP is not suitable for you as it does not provide adequate protection for vaginal or front hole sex. Consider one of the other PrEP options or another HIV prevention strategy.

Discover more in On-demand PrEP – Powerful HIV protection when you decide.

How do I get PrEP?

You will need a prescription from a doctor or sexual health service to get PrEP. You will need to test for HIV and STIs every three months to get a prescription.

PrEP is available on the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS). This means it is subsidised by the Australian government and available at a reduced cost to guys with Medicare.

If you are not eligible for Medicare, you can import PrEP from an online pharmacy. You will still need a prescription from your doctor. Discover more in How to buy PrEP online for personal importation.

If you cannot afford to buy PrEP for any reason, you may be eligible to get it for free. Discover more on free PrEP and available concessions in How to buy PrEP – even if you can’t afford it.

For more on how to get PrEP near you, click on your state or territory: ACT | NSW | NT | QLD | SA | TAS | VIC | WA

What do I need to know about using PrEP?

PrEP provides highly effective protection against HIV when used correctly. Consider these tips before starting PrEP:

  • Using PrEP involves seeing a doctor every three months for a sexual health check-up.
  • To work properly, you must use PrEP according to whichever regime you choose (daily, periodic or on-demand). Missing doses could mean you’re not protected against HIV.
  • PrEP protects against HIV – it doesn’t prevent other STIs. To help prevent most other STIs, use condoms with PrEP.
  • PrEP is a highly effective and safe medication. As with any medication, you might experience minor side effects when you start using PrEP. These are rarely serious and usually stop in a week or two. Speak to your doctor if you’re concerned.
  • Always check in with your doctor before starting, stopping or changing the way you use PrEP.

For support with PrEP, see Got a PrEP question? Here’s where to find support.

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