Institute for Family Health staff host a Live Q&A on Instagram for PrEP Aware Week
On Friday, October 29, staff from the Institute for Family Health’s HIV Prevention team answered questions in a public Live Q&A event on Instagram as part of PrEP Aware Week 2021. The event was hosted by Gianne Gerena, the HIV Prevention Coordinator, along with HIV Prevention Outreach Workers Rayna Tamko and Robert Gamboa. Read the transcript below:
“Good afternoon. I am Gianne Gerena, the HIV Prevention Coordinator for the Institute for Family Health. And I am Rayna Tamko, HIV Prevention Outreach Worker. And I am Robert Gamboa, HIV Prevention Outreach Worker.
It’s PrEP Aware Week! We are here to answer your questions about how to prevent HIV with PrEP, HIV testing and more! You can also check out institute.org/prep for more information.
So, what questions do you have about PrEP and HIV prevention?”
What is PrEP?
“This is a great place to start. PrEP stands for Pre-exposure prophylaxis. It is a pill you can take once a day to prevent HIV. PrEP is highly effective when used correctly every single day as directed. If you think PrEP might be right for you, let your provider know. You can also reach out to one of us. You can find more information and contact info in the link above.”
Who can take PrEP?
“Anyone and everyone can take PrEP if they are HIV negative. PrEP is recommended for those at a high risk for HIV infection. This includes but is not limited to people in relationships with people living with HIV, men who have sex with men, people who have multiple sex partners and are not always consistent with using protection, people who inject drugs or share needles, and people who may have other sexually transmitted infections. If you think that PrEP might be right for you, please do reach out to one of us. We are happy to help you discuss options, answer any questions you may have, or help you find a provider who will prescribe PrEP. You can find our contact info at institute.org/prep.”
How do I know PrEP is right for me?
“The first thing to do is have a conversation with your provider at the Institute or meet with one of our PrEP Navigators or HIV Prevention Workers to talk more about whether PrEP is right for you. Use the link to get a phone number where you can call or text one of us directly and ask us any questions you may have.”
Where can I get PrEP?
“Any medical provider here at the Institute can provide a prescription to get PrEP. If you are interested in PrEP and currently receive care here, you can make an appointment with a provider. If you are not a patient at the Institute for Family Health you can call or text Gianne Gerena, using the number on our website, institute.org/prep. We can help you book an appointment to see a provider for PrEP, and answer any questions you have about PrEP.”
Do you have to take PrEP every day?
“PrEP works best when you take it consistently and once a day, 7 days a week.”
How effective is PrEP?
“The Center for Disease Control (CDC) reports that studies have shown that consistent use of PrEP reduces the risk of getting HIV from sex by about 99% and from injection drug use by at least 74%. Adding other prevention methods, such as condom use, along with PrEP can reduce a person’s risk of getting HIV even further.”
Do I still need to use condoms when on PrEP?
“While PrEP is highly effective when used correctly (everyday, consistently), it is not 100%. We still recommend that you use condoms or other barrier methods to reduce HIV risk when using PrEP. Another reason to still use barrier methods while on PrEP, is because PrEP does not protect you against pregnancy or other sexually transmitted infections like syphilis, gonorrhea or chlamydia.”
Are there any side effects of PrEP?
“This is a great question. Most people who take PrEP have no side effects. A small number of people experience nausea, diarrhea, or headache when they first start it; these symptoms usually get better within a couple of weeks. In some very rare cases, PrEP can cause problems with kidney function. Your provider will monitor your kidneys when you start taking PrEP just in case. If you have any concerns about taking PrEP, discuss them with your provider.”
Will I have to take PrEP for my whole life?
“A lot of people wonder about this question, but ultimately, that is a decision you make for yourself. Unlike medications for people living with HIV, PrEP is intended for use during periods when you may be at a higher risk of getting HIV. If your situation changes and you want to stop taking PrEP, talk about this with your provider.”
How often should someone get an HIV test?
“The Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that everyone between the ages of 13 and 64 get tested at least once a year. If you would like an HIV test, you can let your provider know at your next appointment. You just have to prick your finger—the test needs only a drop of blood. People at higher risk, including those on PrEP should be tested more often (for example, every 3 to 6 months).”
How much does PrEP cost?
“This is a great question! PrEP is covered by your health insurance, including Medicaid. If you are someone without health insurance or are under-insured there are medical visit and medication assistance programs that our PrEP navigators can help you apply for to access PrEP. Here at the Institute for Family Health, our mission is to provide affordable health care for all who need it. Let us know what your situation is and we will help.”
All right, if there are no more questions, we’re going to wrap it up. Thank you so much for joining us today. If you would like to learn more about PrEP, please visit institute.org/prep. If you are already an Institute patient and would like to get PrEP, call your health center or use MyChart to schedule an appointment. If you are a new patient, you can also call or text us at (917) 658-9716 and we can help you make an appointment. Again, that number is (917) 658-9716 and you can call or text. Thank you and enjoy the rest of your day!”
Note: the transcript has been edited for readability.