PrEP and PEP: Overview and Resources
In recent community health initiatives, from HUSTLE and HIM to our neighbourhood partners such as STOP and YouthCo, you may have heard talk about PEP and PrEP. Sexual health is not always as straightforward as wearing a condom (we did a past Safety Tip discussing Gardasil9: #GetGarded), and information is key to empowering yourself in decisions about your own health care.
What’s the Difference?
PEP (Post-Exposure Prophylaxis) is a series of medications taken for up to 30 days that may prevent an HIV infection after exposure to HIV. PEP must be started within 72 days for guys who have had an exposure. HIM has compiled an excellent resource on PEP you can access here.
PrEP (Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis) is medication – Truvada – that was originally used to treat people living with HIV. Truvada was approved in Canada for use as Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis in 2016 as on-label HIV prevention medication. At this time, PrEP is not widely accessible for guys without private insurance plans, or those enrolled in PrEP research studies, or those not covered under the First Nations and Inuit Health Branch. Several studies are in the works and may recruit for participants in the future, but at this time PrEP is only available to those guys with private insurance, or those enrolled in studies, or guys enrolled in First Nations and Inuit Health Care plan, which covers the medication.
(Note: Before you are prescribed PrEP, you will need to get an HIV test and STI screening both before and throughout your time on PrEP, and be prepared to commit to a period of regular follow up with your GP or other health care provider to assess kidney function and other medical followup.)
Who should use PEP?
PEP must be started within 72 hours of a risk incident – for example, a broken condom; condomless sex with a guy who is HIV positive or whose sexual history you are not familiar with; or sharing injection needles. If this treatment is right for you, a doctor will prescribe a course of powerful anti-HIV medications that must be taken daily for a month. This potentially could prevent infection – but PEP is not a cure for HIV. You can access more tools here to learn how to manage your risk.
If you are concerned you have had an exposure to HIV, you can access a list of options of where to access PEP here.
Who should use PrEP?
Direct from HIM’s fact sheet (linked above) on PrEP:
Current guidelines on PrEP from the BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS have identified the following risk factors where PrEP is recommended:
- Sex with a partner with HIV
- Have had a recent STI (e.g. chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis)
- Have multiple sex partners
- Have a history of inconsistent or no condom use
- Currently involved in sex work
- Have had repeated courses of post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP)
If you have any further questions or would like more information regarding either PEP or PrEP, take a look at the provided links in this article, check out www.getpreped.ca and contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.