What is PrEP?
PrEP stands for pre-exposure prophylaxis. It’s used to prevent HIV in people that are at risk of contracting it. It contains the ingredients tenovofir and emtricitabine which are also used to treat people that have already been diagnosed with HIV, but in different quantities. PrEP can’t treat HIV, only prevent it.
If a person at high risk of HIV takes PrEP daily, they are around 90% less likely to contract the virus. You may be at risk of HIV if you have multiple sexual partners of unknown or positive HIV status and don’t always use barrier methods.
How does PrEP work?
To understand how PrEP works in the body, we need to look at how HIV is contracted. HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus, and is often transmitted via sexual intercourse. HIV can also be passed on through blood, hence why injecting drug users are also at risk of infection.
If a person contracts HIV, they usually notice flu-like symptoms around 2 weeks after infection, and these can last for several weeks. Over time, HIV weakens the immune system and makes it harder for affected people to fight off infections, and if the condition goes untreated for a long time, it may even turn into AIDS; something which can be live threatening.
In people that don’t use PrEP, HIV enters the cells in the body and starts to wreak havoc on the immune system. However, PrEP contains tenovofir and emtricitabine, both antiretroviral drugs which stop the virus from affecting your healthy cells and taking hold. This means that someone with a HIV-negative status would likely remain clear even when having sex with someone of HIV-positive status.
We recommend using condoms alongside this medication, especially if you know that your partner has HIV or AIDS, but PrEP can potentially save the lives of sexually active men and women who are unaware of their partners’ STI status.
Can PrEP cure HIV?
Unfortunately, not. There’s currently no cure for HIV but PrEP can go a long way towards preventing the spread of the infection. If you’ve already been diagnosed with HIV, please speak to your doctor or visit your nearest sexual health clinic for advice on what you can do.
If you’re unsure whether you have HIV or not, you should get tested as soon as possible.
You can do this at the following places:
- GP surgeries
- Sexual health clinics
- GUM clinics
- Charities such as the Terrence Higgins Trust (THT)
- Private clinics
- Online (by ordering a home testing kit)
If your result comes back positive, you’ll be able to take post-exposure prophylaxis which can lower the amount of the virus in your system, often to an undetectable level.
How do you take PrEP?
There are several ways to take PrEP, and whichever method you choose depends on your lifestyle and whatever suits you.
One of the most common ways of taking PrEP is by taking one pill daily. This is suitable for those that frequently have sex, or would rather take the medication as part of their daily routine. The advantage of using PrEP daily is that you’re more likely to be protected against HIV even if you forget one day. This method is suitable for both anal and vaginal sex.
Using PrEP "on demand"
Another way of taking PrEP is by taking it “on demand”. This means that you only take the drug when you plan to have sex. Current guidelines from the THT state that if you’re taking PrEP on demand, you should:
- take 2 pills 2 – 24 hours before sex
- take 1 pill 24 hours later
- take 1 more pill 24 hours after that
Taking PrEP on demand is only recommended for anal sex.
One of the lesser known methods of taking PrEP include taking one pill, 4 times a week. This is only suitable for anal sex, and is recommended if you only have sex a couple of times a month. People taking PrEP this way usually take a pill on Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday.
Finally, you might choose to use PrEP if you’re planning a holiday, or know that there’s going to be a likelihood of unprotected sex within a certain timeframe. This is normally taken 7 days before you expect to be engaging in condomless sex, every day during this time, and then for 7 days after this period. This ensures that there's enough of the medicine in your system to protect you from HIV during this temporary period.
How can I access PrEP in the UK?
The ease of access to PrEP varies depending on where you live.
In Scotland and Northern Ireland, you can access the medication for free on the NHS. You can visit any sexual health clinic and have a chat with a nurse who’ll be able to prescribe it to you if they think you’re at risk of contracting HIV.
If you live in Wales, you can also get the drug from a sexual health clinic, as they’re currently doing an uncapped pilot. You won’t need to pay for the medication.
However, if you live in England, things get a little bit trickier. PrEP isn’t currently available through NHS England unless you’ve been accepted into the impact trial, though many places have reached their capacity limit. Although places on the trial have been doubled, you must fit certain criteria to be accepted onto the program. As so many are being turned away from the trial, the only other option for accessing the preventative drug is to buy PrEP privately, either from a private doctor or online. Unfortunately, buying PrEP online can be a risky business due to counterfeit and dangerous pills which may contain any number of unsafe substances being imported and sold to patients. However, there are genuine sources out there such as ourselves. Doctor4U is proud to be a genuine supplier of PrEP, and we can guarantee safety and confidentiality. Whilst you do have to pay for a private prescription, the Terrence Higgins Trust have introduced the Mags Portman PrEP Access Fund. This provides voucher codes to those who need PrEP but can’t access it on the NHS and are unable to afford a private prescription themselves. You can apply for this through their website, and if accepted, you’ll receive a text with a voucher code for you to access three months’ worth of PrEP.
What are the side effects of PrEP?
Most people don’t really experience any side effects when taking PrEP, but some that have been reported are as follows:
- Abdominal pain
- Joint pain
- Sleep disturbances
- Strange dreams
- Back pain
If you’re concerned about any of the above side effects, or experience any of these symptoms whilst taking Truvada, please talk to your GP. It might help to think about whether the benefits of the medicine outweigh the risks and side effects before thinking about stopping treatment.
Does Truvada protect you straight away?
No. Clinical trials have shown that PrEP takes between 4-7 days to reach its full potential in your system, so it’s a good idea to use barrier methods until then to make sure you’re protected against HIV.
Buying PrEP is easy and safe through Doctor4U. All you need to do is complete a PrEP consultation and select the treatment. If our doctors agree that it’s suitable for you, the medication will be sent to you in the post.
Buying PrEP online means that you don’t need to schedule an appointment with a doctor – you can do it all from the comfort of your home (or from your daily commute) at a time that suits you. When you buy PrEP from us you’re guaranteed security and confidentiality – exactly the same as if you’d seen your own GP.
Worried about ordering medicine online? We understand. Your health is as important to us as it is to you, which is why we’re proud to display all of our credentials on our website. Before you buy PrEP from any website, you should check for a clickable logo that says “click to verify if this website is operating legally”. Ours can be found in the footer of our site on every page, and it will show you that we’re an MHRA-registered healthcare service. (The MHRA are the government regulating body for all medicines and healthcare products, meaning that any registered supplier complies to the highest standards).
You can also find Doctor4U listed on www.iwantprepnow.co.uk, who are partnered with the Terrence Higgins Trust, so you know that if you buy PrEP from us, you’re in good hands.
How is my order shipped to me?
When an order is ready for shipping, it is collected and delivered by either the Royal Mail or DPD depending on your preference (or possibly your location or the item you ordered). Each order is assigned a tracking number, which will be emailed to you at the time of dispatch. Your medicine will be sent in plain and discreet packaging that’s eco-friendly. We do not include any branding on our packaging nor any labels which inform readers what type of product is contained within.