What is PrEP?
PrEP stands for Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis. An HIV-negative person takes pills (developed to treat people with HIV) regularly to reduce their risk of HIV infection and several studies show that PrEP worksHow you access PrEP in the UK depends on where you live, it’s available on the NHS in Scotland, and trials are being run in England and Wales. The brand marketed drug is available through private prescriptions, but it is also legal to buy generic versions for personal use. Generic versions can be bought online.

The PrEP Impact trial has now begun (12/10/2017). The trial is recruiting up to 26,000 people. You can find your nearest participating clinic by clicking here

Why do we need PrEP?

There are now over 100,000 people living with HIV in the UK (as of 2016). We need to improve HIV prevention. Tens of thousands of HIV transmissions have been prevented by condom use. However, many people do not use condoms all of the time and each year there are thousands of new infections.

PrEP has the potential to prevent new infections among some of those at greatest risk of acquiring HIV. Condom use will remain a core strategy in HIV prevention. PrEP gives people who already find it difficult to consistently use condoms an additional way to protect their health.

Due to the high rate of HIV infections, there is a particular need for the NHS to make PrEP available to gay men. However it should be available to all people who are at high risk of acquiring HIV.

How effective is PrEP?

It has been shown in most major studies that no one became infected with HIV if they took PrEP as it was recommended. When taken correctly, PrEP is 99% effective. However, it's important to know that if you don't take PrEP correctly - that means not missing doses - it may not work.

The UK’s PROUD study reported that PrEP reduced the risk of HIV infection by 86% for gay and other men who have sex with men when delivered in sexual health clinics in England. The researchers concluded that PrEP offers a major opportunity to curb new HIV infections in men who have sex with men in the UK and suggested that PrEP is as effective as condoms in preventing HIV transmission, as long as the pills are taken regularly, as directed.

Why take HIV treatment to avoid taking HIV treatment?

People living with HIV need to take lifelong treatment. PrEP consists of fewer drugs and people only need to take it during periods when they are at risk of HIV. Many people find that their sexual behaviour changes over time, for example when they begin or end a relationship.

Does PrEP have side-effects?
Any medicine can have side-effects, so taking PrEP is a serious decision. The drugs in PrEP have been used as part of HIV treatment for many years. This has shown that they have a low risk of serious side-effects. Most people taking PrEP don’t report side-effects. Some people have stomach problems, headaches and tiredness during the first month but these usually go away. People taking PrEP have regular check-ups at a clinic.

Does PrEP mean people take more risks?
The PROUD study did not find significant difference in risk behaviour between the control arm of the study (those not on PrEP) and the immediate arm (those prescribed PrEP at the commencement of the study). Other studies of PrEP have consistently reported that being on PrEP did not result in people adopting riskier behaviours.  Instead it gives people who already find it difficult to consistently use condoms a way to protect their health.