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What is prep? I heard it’s a medication to prevent HIV, is that true?

I am glad you’ve heard about PrEP, one of the HIV prevention tools available in Canada.  I’m happy to answer this for you and share some helpful links for more details.

PrEP stands for Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis, and is a tool for HIV negative people who are at risk of HIV infection to reduce their risk of becoming infected.

PrEP involves taking anti-HIV medications (antiretrovirals) on a daily basis.  When PrEP is taken consistently and correctly, it works to help prevent HIV from replicating within the body’s immune cells, which helps to prevent a permanent infection.

If you are curious about whether PrEP is right for you, talk with your health care provider about it, or book an appointment at Nine Circles Community Health Centre.  PrEP requires a careful assessment of risks and benefits and HIV testing to make sure that you are HIV negative.  Your health care provider will go over other prevention strategies to use in combination with PrEP, because it does not prevent transmission of other STIs like syphilis, gonorrhea, Chlamydia, herpes…

Using PrEP requires daily adherence to medications, regular urine and blood work monitoring and regular testing for STBBIs (sexually transmitted and blood borne infections).  People sometimes experience side effects.  Resistance is a risk if you become infected with HIV, so it’s important to build a relationship with your prescriber and consistently take PrEP as prescribed.

While PrEP has been approved by Health Canada, it’s not currently covered by MB Health’s drug benefits program. Unfortunately, it can cost $250- $1000/month, depending on the brand. This cost may be covered by some third party insurance companies.  The cost is covered for people who have First Nations and Inuit Health Branch benefits.

CATIE is a great Canadian resource for more Information on PrEP.