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What is PrEP
PrEP stands for Pre-exposure Prophylaxis. It is the use of daily antiretroviral therapy (ART) by HIV negative individuals to lower their chances of getting HIV. PrEP refers to the ongoing use of ART before and after possible exposure to HIV.
You may also hear of HIV PrEP by its brand name, Truvada.
How does PrEP work?
PrEP usually comes as a combination tablet that contains two medications. The medication works by blocking HIV from spreading in the body.
PrEP is for anyone who has a higher chance of getting HIV. You must be HIV negative to be on PrEP.
In British Columbia, the guidelines for provincially-funded (free) PrEP state that a person is eligible for PrEP if they report having condomless anal or vaginal sex, or sharing drug injection equipment, and ANY of the following:
- Infectious syphilis or a bacterial sexually transmitted infection in the rectum (like chlamydia or gonorrhea), especially if diagnosed in the past 12 months.
- Having used post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) more than once.
- Ongoing sexual relationship with an HIV-positive partner(s) who is not on ART and/or does not have an HIV viral load < 200 copies/ml
- An HIV Incidence Risk Index for men who have sex with men (HIRI-MSM) score ≥10
If PrEP isn’t for you right now
It is best to continue regularly testing for STI and HIV as needed.
Proper use of condoms can help to prevent HIV, but you can also consider some other prevention strategies like increasing your knowledge around sexual health and healthy relationships. Check out the CATIE website for some good tips on preventing HIV. Talk to a health care provider if you have any questions or need support.
Circumstances are always changing, so review your PrEP eligibility and HIRI score (if relevant) on an ongoing basis with your health care provider.
Who can prescribe PrEP?
Any doctor that is licensed to practice in BC can prescribe PrEP for you. Nurse practitioners who have taken the Treatment for HIV Prevention program at the BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS (BC CfE) can also prescribe PrEP.
If you have a primary care provider (family physician, primary care centre, etc.), ask your provider if they will prescribe PrEP for you. If your provider has any questions, they can visit our HIV PrEP Toolkit page or call the BC CfE directly at 604-806-8515.
How much does PrEP cost?
To be eligible for free PrEP, you need to be:
- At risk for HIV infection
- Living in BC with Medical Services Plan (MSP) coverage or Interim Federal Health coverage (e.g., refugee status)
If you are living in BC and don’t have MSP or Interim Federal Health coverage, you can still get PrEP, although it will not be free. To access PrEP, you will need to either:
- Pay for it yourself
- Get it covered through a private insurer or extended health care
- Buy it through the Davie Buyers Club
If you are Inuit, you can get free PrEP through the Non-Insured Health Benefits (NIHB) program, just like every other prescription. If you are First Nations or Metis and living in BC, you can get free PrEP through the HIV Drug Treatment Program at the BC Centre for Excellence.
What else should I know before starting PrEP?
If you would like to start on PrEP, you may want to read some additional information first. Have a look through our Frequently Asked Questions about HIV PrEP brochure. This brochure is also available in Spanish, Simplified Chinese and Punjabi.
Your first PrEP prescription is limited to a 30-44 day supply.
If you decide to continue on PrEP, you will need to be monitored regularly by a health care provider. This includes a clinic visit with STI, HIV and kidney testing before each prescription can be renewed.
A maximum of 90 days (3 months) will be given for each PrEP prescription.
To make follow-up testing easier, sign-up to receive PrEP testing reminders by email or text.
Where do I pick up my PrEP?
If you live in Vancouver or the Greater Vancouver area, you can pick up PrEP directly from the St. Paul’s Hospital Ambulatory Pharmacy.
If you live outside the Greater Vancouver area, you can make arrangements to have your medication delivered to your health care provider’s office, a Health Unit, pharmacy, or other location, as long as the location is agreed on by your health care provider and the HIV Drug Treatment Program.
Links to other PrEP information programs
- BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS
- HIV Drug Treatment Program
- Health Initiative for Men
- The sex you want