Getting Started With PrEP for HIV Prevention

Learn About How You Can Get Started With PrEP

This article is for anyone who wants to learn, or learn more, about pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) for HIV prevention. The goal of this activity is to help you talk to and work with your doctor or healthcare team member about PrEP.

You will learn about:

  • What PrEP is and how it works

  • Who can take PrEP

  • Getting started with PrEP

  • Talking to your doctor and healthcare team, and questions you can ask

Test Your Knowledge

Protecting Yourself Against HIV

There are people in the United States who are newly diagnosed as living with HIV every year. This can include people of any age, race or ethnicity, gender or gender identity, and sexual orientation or identity. For most adults, HIV happens from having vaginal or anal sex without practicing safer sex or by sharing needles or other drug injection equipment.

Protecting yourself against HIV is important and ways to help do this can include:

  • Abstinence (not having sex)

  • Practicing safer sex every time you have sex

  • Not sharing needles or drug equipment

  • Taking medicine called PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis)

How PrEP Helps Protect You

PrEP is taken to help prevent HIV before you're exposed to it. PrEP works by stopping HIV from making copies of itself (replicating) inside your body, which helps keep HIV from taking hold.

When taken as directed, PrEP can lower the chances of HIV from sex or injection drug use and is highly effective at preventing HIV. But it's important to take as directed, otherwise PrEP won't work as well.

PrEP is available as pills that you take by mouth or as injections given by your doctor or healthcare team member.

Is PrEP for You?

PrEP may be taken by certain adults or adolescents who are at risk for HIV, weigh at least 75 pounds (35 kg), and have had a negative HIV test.

PrEP may be recommended if you're sexually active and:

  • Don't always practice safer sex

  • Have multiple sex partners

  • Were diagnosed with a sexually transmitted disease or infection (STD or STI) in the past 6 months

  • Have a sex partner(s) who is living with HIV, or whose HIV status you don't know

PrEP may also be recommended if you have injected drugs, have an injection partner who is living with HIV, or share needles or other drug equipment.

PrEP for Women

PrEP is available for women and people who have vaginal sex (where your partner's penis enters your vagina). Ask your doctor or healthcare team member about which type may be recommended for you.

Caroline talks about why she decided to start taking PrEP.

PrEP and People of Color

While anyone can be diagnosed as living with HIV, the BIPOC community is one of the largest groups affected. Each year, Black or African American people make up the largest number of people who are newly diagnosed and Hispanic or Latino people are the second largest.

PrEP can be taken by people of any race or ethnicity to help protect against HIV.

Hakeem talks about his experiences around starting PrEP.

PrEP if You're a Young Adult

Being a young adult can come with many new challenges. Whether it's moving away, going to school, having a job, new personal relationships, or navigating social situations, it can be a lot to handle. But staying healthy and protecting yourself is important, and PrEP can help when it comes to protecting against HIV.

Josue talks about why he made the decision to start taking PrEP.

Getting Started With PrEP

There are many different reasons why someone may decide to start PrEP. But it's your body and your health, so you should feel empowered about your decision.

PrEP can be prescribed by any healthcare team member who is licensed to write prescriptions. So talking to your doctor or healthcare team member is a good first step.

Before starting PrEP, you'll need to have an HIV test that comes back negative. If an in-person test or appointment isn't possible, there are mail-in tests -- as well as telehealth phone or video appointments -- you can ask about.

Talking to Your Doctor and Healthcare Team

Some people may find that talking about topics like their sex life or PrEP can be uncomfortable. But having open and honest communication is key, so don't be afraid to advocate for yourself and your decision. Sometimes just saying, "This is hard for me to bring up" can be a good icebreaker.

You'll also want to make sure you have a doctor or healthcare team member who you feel comfortable with. Finding someone who understands your personal preferences and individual needs, as well as the needs of your community, is important. There are also support groups, organizations, and clinics that can help connect you to care.

Questions You Can Ask About PrEP

Be sure to tell your doctor or healthcare team member about any conditions you have, all medicines you take -- including those you get without a prescription -- and herbals and supplements. Also be sure to go over your lifestyle, habits, and daily routine, including anything that might make it hard for you to take medicine every day or get to appointments for injections.

Questions you can ask them can include:

  • Which PrEP may be for me, and what are the possible side effects?

  • How do I take PrEP correctly?

  • Are there ways to help me talk to my partner about PrEP?

  • Is there a support or community group I can join?

  • Where can I find more information and resources?

Test Your Knowledge

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You have successfully completed the program Getting Started With PrEP for HIV Prevention.

View Additional Materials on this topic that you may find useful:

HIV Basics

HIV and Women

HIV in the United States by Race and Ethnicity

HIV in the United States by Age

HIV Prevention


Positively Aware

Authors and Disclosures

Clinician Reviewer

Karen Badal, MD, MPH

Senior Medical Education Director, Medscape, LLC.Karen Badal, MD, MPH, has no relevant financial relationships.


Anita A. Galdieri, PharmD, RPh

Associate Director, Content Development, Medscape, LLC.Anita A. Galdieri, PharmD, RPh, has no relevant financial relationships.


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