Frequently Asked Questions about PrEP

PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) is a safe medication that significantly lowers your risk of getting HIV. If you are considering taking PrEP, you may want additional information. Here are some of the questions we are asked most frequently about PrEP.

How effective is PrEP?
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, PrEP lowers your risk of getting HIV from sex by about 99 percent. It is much less effective if you don’t take it as prescribed.

Is PrEP safe?
Health care providers have been using PrEP for more than a decade and a half. It is considered very safe. It is only available through a health care provider, which means that you will be carefully screened to make sure PrEP is safe for you.

What happens if I test positive for HIV?
If you test positive for HIV, we will help you with HIV care and treatment. People living with HIV cannot take PrEP; it is not a treatment for HIV, and it can make it harder to treat HIV.

Can I take PrEP if I was just exposed to HIV? What are my options?
You should not take PrEP after an exposure to HIV. PrEP is preventative; it is not a treatment.

If you have been exposed—or think you might have been exposed—to HIV within the last 72 hours, you may be able to take emergency medications called PEP (post-exposure prophylaxis) to help prevent HIV infection. PEP is for people who are currently HIV-negative and should be started within 72 hours of a possible exposure to HIV; you take PEP for four weeks after an exposure. Studies suggest PEP stops the infection about 80 percent of the time. While you are on PEP, it is recommended that you abstain from sex to protect yourself and your partners from HIV infection. After PEP, you may want to consider taking PrEP for ongoing protection.

If you have been exposed or think you’ve been exposed to HIV within the last 72 hours – please call the 24/7 New York City PEP Hotline at 844-3-PEPNYC (844-373-7692).

What are the side effects of PrEP?
Some people feel nausea, diarrhea, or headache when they start PrEP. These side effects usually go away within a few weeks.

Do I need a prescription for PrEP?
Yes, you need a prescription for PrEP. After we get your health information and lab work, we will determine if PrEP is appropriate for you. If it is, our health care provider will prescribe the medication to a nearby pharmacy or the mail-order pharmacy of your choice.

Can I get a generic version of PrEP?
There is only one generic medication that is approved for PrEP at this time, tenofovir disoproxil fumarate/emtricitabine, which has been available since October 2020. Thanks to the United States Preventive Services Task Force, most private insurers are required to cover PrEP medications without cost sharing. However, please call your insurance company (use the number on the back of your insurance card) to ask if you have a “grandfathered plan” – if you do, there may be costs associated with PrEP, and our PrEP team can help you navigate possible options for getting you started on PrEP. You can reach our team at 929-400-7739.

Is it legal to prescribe medication online?
Telehealth care providers are legally allowed to prescribe medications online. You will talk with board certified and licensed health care providers who comply with all U.S. medical laws. Our providers are only licensed to see patients within the state of New York. 

What if I have other medical questions?
You can always reach out to us for an appointment with a health care provider, who will answer any questions or concerns you may have. 

Can I take PrEP just when I need it—not every day?
PrEP was only approved as a daily medication, and has been found to be more than 99 percent effective when taken every day. If you are not regularly exposed to HIV or don’t want to take a pill every day, you can talk to your health care provider about whether on-demand PrEP dosing is right for you.

Do I have to take PrEP with food?
No, you can take PrEP with or without food.

Can I drink while I’m on PrEP?
Research suggests that alcohol does not affect PrEP’s effectiveness. If you have any concerns or questions, speak with your health care provider.

Does PrEP interfere with other prescription medicines?
Research suggests that most other prescription medications do not affect PrEP’s effectiveness. Make sure to inform your health care provider of any medications you’re taking before starting on PrEP.

If I ask for PrEP, is my personal and medical information secure?
We use high-level encryption software to receive and store your data. We follow all federal and state standards, including the Health Information Portability and Accounting Act, the federal law designed to guarantee security and privacy of health information.

If I’m on someone else’s insurance, will they know if I take PrEP?
You can consult with your health insurance carrier about how medical information is detailed on your explanation of benefits, and ask them to block sending these statements to your home. The details of your medical care (such as getting an HIV test) should not appear on any insurance statement. But the statement may reflect a co-pay or other financial concerns. If you are concerned about your privacy from a parent, partner, or spouse, please call us at 929-400-7739 and we can review your options.

Can I get PrEP without going to a doctor’s office?
Yes! Telemedicine lets you use your phone, laptop, or tablet to meet with a health care provider virtually. This approach is safe and secure. You will still need to get tested for HIV, hepatitis B, hepatitis C, and kidney function before starting on PrEP. You will also need to have repeat lab work every three months, to make sure you’re still HIV-negative and that PrEP is still right for you. TelePrEP could be an option for you. The lab work will not be virtual. 

Does PrEP protect me from other sexually transmitted infections?
PrEP only works at preventing HIV. It does not prevent other sexually transmitted infections. We encourage you to use condoms to reduce transmission of other sexually transmitted infections, such as gonorrhea, chlamydia, syphilis, and hepatitis C.