Every medicine can cause side effects and PrEP is no different. Short-term side effects of PrEP can include nausea, headache, and weight loss, but these usually last no more than a few months. Longer-term side effects can include problems with your kidneys and bone density. Your provider will regularly check up on these side effects if you decide to take PrEP.1
When you decide to take any medicine, you are deciding that the benefits of taking it outweigh the costs. If you think you may be at high risk of getting HIV and that PrEP will help you feel good about your health, PrEP may still be a good option for you despite its possible side effects.
Some worry that sharing you’re on PrEP may lead others to assume that you have multiple sexual partners, have sex with men, or are often exposed to the HIV virus. None of these assumptions are necessarily true. Just being on PrEP does not reflect your sexual behavior or orientation.
PrEP must be taken once a day, every day, to work best. Strategies to make sure you do this may include setting reminders on a mobile device, making a habit of taking PrEP with a meal, or asking someone you trust to help you stay on track.
Barriers in healthcare
Cultural differences between you and your provider may make asking for PrEP uncomfortable. Some doctors may not have heard about PrEP or may have wrong ideas about the drug. Luckily, there are ways to make this conversation easier.
Tell your healthcare provider if you take or plan to take other medicines while on PrEP. PrEP may or may not work with your current medicines.
If you’ve had any medical problems, especially issues with your kidneys or bone density, share them with your healthcare provider before you start PrEP, as PrEP may make those problems worse.
Other Sexually Transmitted Diseases
PrEP doesn’t protect you from other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) like syphilis, gonorrhea, and chlamydia. PrEP can only reduce your risk of getting HIV. To protect yourself from other STDs, consider adding tools like condoms to your safer sex practices.
PrEP doesn’t prevent pregnancy. Instead, consider adding tools like condoms or birth control to your safer sex practices.
If you’re in a long-term, monogamous relationship with an HIV-negative partner, you don’t have a high risk of getting HIV. It’s up to you whether or not you want to take PrEP. Talk to your provider to figure out the best plan for you.