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5 Things to Know About PrEP – the HIV Preventative Drug

Since writing about my own personal experience taking Truvada for PrEP, I wanted to elaborate additional important things worth knowing about PrEP and Truvada. When I first started taking PrEP, I realized a lot of my family and friends outside of the LGBTQ community weren’t really aware of this life-altering and revolutionary drug.

The drug has the potential to reduce HIV transmission by nearly 99%.

This “miracle drug” has profoundly changed the LGBTQ experience, making sex safer. But there’s still quite a bit of mystery around Truvada. Even when I first started taking PrEP, many of my gay friends still weren’t. Mostly because the process of getting a prescription, at least an affordable one, was a challenge.

But, for myself, navigating America’s complicated healthcare system and the confusing and sometimes awkward nature of getting PrEP was a must. I had researched and read about it for years, so I knew it was something I needed to use myself. Here’s a little bit of what I learned in the process.

truvada for prep - things to know

5 Things to Know About Truvada for PrEP

1. Truvada is unreasonably expensive

Gilead Sciences which is the sole producer of Truvada for PrEP charges up to $1,600 for a monthly supply of the pills. Obviously, this is an extreme cost—an amount most people cannot reasonably be expected to pay. Not all health insurance options cover the expense.

PrEP4All and Break The Patent state that PrEP does not have to cost so much because the production costs for the pill are as low as $6 to produce. That’s why there is currently a movement to get a generic drug available on the market.

Gilead Sciences (which produces the branded drug Truvada) has been charging high fees for what they claim to be the research costs, but according to PrEP4ALL, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) funded by the U.S. government paid for almost all of the research that went into developing Truvada for PrEP.

2. Sometimes you can get PrEP for free

Because of the high cost of the drug, though, many city government offices and sexual health clinics offer opportunities to get PrEP at a reduced cost or even free.

Gilead Sciences even offers a Medication Assistance Program called Gilead Advancing Access which may be able to offer the drug for as little as a $0 co-payment. The application process is complicated but speaking with your healthcare provider or doctor can help you get access through that program or other local grant programs.

Affordable access to PrEP is vital to preventing further spread of HIV. New government regulations are making it more accessible every day, but it’s still a dangerously expensive drug.

3. Side effects are mostly minimal

When taking PrEP for the first time, your health should be closely monitored by a PrEP provider. Before refilling each prescription, you’ll likely have to get some additional tests done just to make sure the Truvada drug isn’t negatively affecting your overall health.

Truvada for PrEP is, generally speaking, a great product and the LGBTQ community is happy to have it available. There have been serious cases where the drug manufacturer is accused of putting profits over people’s health & safety, though, and, as always, you should consult your doctor.

4. It greatly reduces your risk of HIV

Truvada has the ability to reduce the risk of HIV transmission by more than 99%, according to most sources, and sometimes called a “miracle drug.” It was previously used as a treatment drug for HIV, but since the last several years and FDA approval, it is now largely used as a preventative measure: a daily pill taken consistently and regularly that can severely reduce the risk of HIV transmission.

Because of its preventative effect, it’s made the LGBTQ community far safer from the deadly disease that once terrorized an entire generation. In NYC, new HIV infections are at the lowest levels in 17 years.

5. But other sexual safety measures are necessary!

Since PrEP has become more widely used and popular, especially among single gay men, Truvada has sometimes been (incorrectly) thought of as a drug that can be used to have more reckless sex. Every provider of PrEP, though, will tell you that it’s still recommended and even necessary to use condoms to have safe sex.

Condoms are still the most effective way at treating most sexual transmitted diseases and infections. PrEP is simply a drug to prevent HIV transmission, so should be used along other safe sex practices.

truvada for prep - things to know