Explore Your Options: PrEP

EXPLORE YOUR OPTIONS: PrEP

What is PrEP?

“PrEP” stands for Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis. The word “prophylaxis” means to prevent or control the spread of an infection or disease. When you take PrEP consistently (one pill a day) and get exposed to HIV through sex or injection drug use, the medicine in PrEP works to keep the virus from taking hold in your body. The only medicine that is currently approved for PrEP is a small blue pill sold under the brand name Truvada®.  

How does PrEP work?

The medicine in PrEP works by blocking HIV from making copies of itself and spreading throughout the body. If you take PrEP daily, the presence of the medicine in your bloodstream can often stop HIV from taking hold and spreading in your body. If you do not take PrEP every day, there may not be enough medicine in your bloodstream to block HIV.

If you choose to use PrEP, you must commit to taking the medicine every day and seeing your doctor every 3 months for prescription refills, follow-up and support.

Is PrEP safe? Are there side-effects?

PrEP is safe and is generally well-tolerated. In rare instances, there are some mild-side effects, such as upset stomach and headaches for the first few weeks. Make sure you talk to your doctor if you have more questions.

Should I take PrEP? Is PrEP what I want?

PrEP is for people who do not have HIV (HIV negative). Generally it is for people who are more likely to be exposed to HIV for various reasons. Your doctor will ask you some questions and help you to explore your options.

If I take PrEP, can I stop using condoms when I have sex?

PrEP offers protection against HIV infection. Condoms offer protection against STDs (like syphilis, gonorrhea, chlamydia and hepatitis) and Pregnancy.

Can I take PrEP right before I have sex?

It generally takes at least seven days of daily use for PrEP to reach full effectiveness. For some people, it may take longer. If you do not take PrEP every day, there may not be enough medicine in your bloodstream to block HIV.

Can I start and stop taking PrEP?

No. Some people wonder if they can take PrEP for a few days or weeks, stop for a while, and then start again. PrEP doesn’t work well if it is not taken every day. PrEP must be taken every day to give the best protection against HIV.

Can I start PrEP after I’ve been exposed to HIV?

No. For people who need to prevent HIV after a single high-risk event of potential HIV exposure—such as sex without a condom, needle-sharing injection drug use, or sexual assault—there is another option called Post-Exposure Prophylaxis, or PEP. PEP must begin within 72 hours of exposure. You can contact your doctor or a local emergency room/urgent care center for more information.

Where can I learn more about PrEP?

You can learn more about PrEP through the following resources:
AVAC’s PrEP Watch
AIDS.GOV: PrEP
CDC’s Overview of PrEP
HRC’s Is PrEP Right For Me?

PrEP Explore Your Options Banner with white male, pacific islander male and african american male

Where can I get PrEP?

PrEP is available only with a prescription. This is because a doctor must give you an HIV test to make sure you are HIV-negative before beginning PrEP. If you have a primary care doctor, talk to them about PrEP. It is important that you only take PrEP as directed to YOU by your doctor. Do not share your prescription with friends, or take a friend’s prescription.

PrEP Locator

Additionally, many local clinics are also enrolling DC residents in PrEP programs. Most insurance plans cover PrEP. Gilead, the maker of Truvada ® has a financial assistance program, which you can learn more about here.

The following clinics currently offer dedicated services for patients interested in PrEP:

Andromeda Transcultural Health, Decatur Center

1400 Decatur Street NW
Washington, DC 20011
(202) 291-4707

Hours of Operation
Mon–Fri: 9AM–5PM
Sat: By appointment only
Sun: Closed

Whitman-Walker Health

1525 14th Street NW
Washington, DC 20005
(202) 745-7000

Hours of Operation
Mon-Thu: 8AM-8PM
Friday 8AM-6PM
Sat-Sun: Closed

MetroHealth

1012 14th Street NW, Suite 700
Washington, DC 20005
(202) 638-0750

Hours of Operation*
Mon: 8:30AM-7:00PM
Tues, Thurs & Fri: 8:30AM-5PM
Wed: 9AM-7PM
*MetroHealth closes for lunch from 12:30PM-1:30PM everyday

Children’s National Medical Center

111 Michigan Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20010
202-476-707

Hours of Operation
Mon: 8:30AM-11:30AM & 1PM-3:30PM
Tues: 8:30AM-11:30AM
Wed: 8:30AM-11:30AM

The following community based organizations provide support and can connect you with a PrEP provider:

HIPS

906 H Street NE
Washington, DC 20002
(202) 232-8150

Us Helping Us

3636 Georgia Ave NW
Washington, DC 20010
(202) 446-1100