Ask Kim: What Is PrEP?

Dear Kim,

I’ve heard a lot about PrEP. I am a single gay man and occasionally hook up, and my doctor has mentioned PrEP to me. How effective is it? Is it safe?

Thank you,
Sexual Prepper

Dear Prepper,

I’m so glad you asked! PrEP is a really great tool for a lot of people to prevent HIV. It’s very effective – over 90% for preventing HIV transmission – but keep in mind that it doesn’t prevent other STDs, only HIV, so you will still need to use a condom (

PrEP is actually a low dose of the same medicines that are used to treat HIV. The two that are approved for use as PrEP right now are Descovy and Truvada. It’s a pill that’s taken daily. In order for it to work well, you have to take it every day.

According to Stanford Health, Some people experience side effects from PrEP, which usually go away over time. The most common are nausea, headache, rash, and loss of appetite. It’s also important for your doctor to monitor you regularly. You should get an HIV test regularly at your doctor’s direction. There is also a slight risk of kidney damage or bone density loss, both of which your doctor will help monitor.

Of course, the ultimate decision is up to you – it’s your body. Continue to protect yourself by using condoms, and get tested for HIV and STDs every 6-12 months, per CDC guidelines. If you do decide you’re interested in PrEP, talk to a doctor, and they will be able to prescribe you PrEP if it makes sense for you.

Be safe,

Questions? Email Kim at or call 860-278-4163 x 111 – and of course, Be Well, Be Yourself.

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