What is PrEP and how does it work?

February 1, 2023
Jordan R.
Julius Care Team 🏳️‍🌈 🏳️‍⚧️


Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) is a medication taken by people who are at high risk of contracting HIV. It involves taking a pill once a day to reduce the chances of contracting the virus through sexual or injection drug use.

PrEP is highly effective in preventing HIV transmission when taken as prescribed, but it does not provide protection against other sexually transmitted infections. It is important for individuals to continue using condoms and other safe sex practices even while taking PrEP.

PrEP is only available with a prescription from a healthcare provider and regular monitoring is necessary to ensure its continued effectiveness. It is not a cure for HIV and should not be used as a replacement for safer sex practices.

How PrEP works

To get a bit technical, PrEP works by blocking the replication of HIV in the body in the event of exposure to the virus. The medication used in PrEP contains two antiretroviral drugs, tenofovir and emtricitabine.

When taken consistently and as prescribed, these drugs build up to high levels in the blood plasma and tissues, including the genital tract. If a person on PrEP is exposed to HIV, the antiretroviral drugs in their system interfere with the virus's ability to establish an infection in the body. The drugs block the reverse transcriptase enzyme, which is crucial for the replication of the virus, and thus helps prevent the virus from multiplying and spreading throughout the body.

How to take PrEP

There are two recommended ways to take PrEP:

1) Daily oral tablets: This is the most common form of PrEP, where individuals take one pill containing the two antiretroviral drugs, tenofovir and emtricitabine, once a day. This form of PrEP is highly effective in reducing the risk of contracting HIV when taken as prescribed.

2) On-demand oral tablets: This form of PrEP involves taking two pills 2-24 hours before sexual activity, and then two more pills 24 hours after the first dose, followed by one pill a day for the next two days. This form of PrEP is primarily used by men who have sex with men and is recommended for those who have infrequent sexual activity.

If you're interested in taking PrEP, you should speak with a healthcare provider to help determine the best way for you to take PrEP.

How Much PrEP Costs

We'd love to give you a straight answer, but the truth is that Medication pricing varies dramatically in Canada.

The price you'd pay for PrEP depends on which province you live in, whether you're covered by insurance or not, and which type of PrEP you are prescribed. Check out our article on the Cost of PrEP in Canada to learn more.

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