Busted! 5 myths about PrEP.
There’s a lot of information out there on PrEP, and lots of people talking about it. But just like broken telephone, the wrong information can spread fast. Here’s the top 5 myths we’ve heard, and the truth about PrEP.
Myth #1 - You can take PrEP only on the days you’re having sex.
Health Canada recommends that you take PrEP once a day, every day, as prescribed by your doctor. When you take PrEP every day, you’ll make sure you get the maximum protection from HIV, and don’t contract the virus.
There has been research on intermittent use of PrEP, sometimes also called ‘on-demand PrEP’. The most cited research is from the Ipergay study. The dosing schedule requires guys to plan in advance and maintain their doses after sex. In the study, most guys were having frequent sex and taking PrEP frequently, so they got good overall protection against HIV. An update to the Ipergay study found that guys taking PrEP less frequently (less than 15 doses per month), also had good protection against HIV, but the sample size was small.
Health Canada hasn’t approved on-demand PrEP likely because of outstanding questions and evidence around lasting immunity for guys who have sex less frequently and take fewer doses on PrEP. Research and findings are still ongoing - and we’ll update you as soon as we hear if Health Canada changes their recommendation. In the meantime, your best option is to take PrEP every day, as prescribed by your doctor. It’ll give you optimum protection against HIV, even when you don’t have frequent or planned sex.
Be sure to ask your pharmacist and doctor if you have questions. Need an answer right away? Click here.
Myth #2 - You don't need condoms
Being on PrEP does not protect you from STIs. Guys have different takes on whether or not to use a condom - it is a personal choice. Just remember that if you aren’t using a condom, you are still at risk for STIs like gonorrhea (aka ‘the clap’), chlamydia, herpes, genital warts (HPV), syphilis, Hep A, Hep B and Hep C.
Some of these STIs are very serious and often don’t show immediate symptoms - so be sure to get tested for STIs every 3 months to catch any infections and start treatment if needed right away.
When you’re on PrEP, it’s a good idea to ask your doctor about a regular bloodwork schedule, if they haven’t put you on one already, so you can be proactive about STIs as well.
Myth #3 - I’ll have side-effects from taking PrEP
A few people who take PrEP may experience side-effects, but these only last a short time (a few days to a couple of weeks), and the vast majority are able to tolerate PrEP without any issues. Fear of side-effects shouldn’t hold you back from trying PrEP. Regular follow-ups with your pharmacist and doctor can also help address any issues you might have.
Myth #4 - PrEP users are sluts
We hope you don't encounter this, but if you do, slut-shaming is not OK! Besides, good on you for putting your health first!
There are a number of reasons guys go on PrEP, all of them valid. First and most important, taking PrEP means you’re taking control of your sex life and your health. Taking PrEP protects you against HIV, and helps stop the spread of HIV in your community and beyond. This is a good thing. Plus, guys may be on PrEP because their partner is HIV+, they have multiple partners, or they use condoms and want extra peace of mind when it comes to HIV.
A recent research study by UCLA found that people are in fact supportive of guys who go on PrEP, and that any negative feedback didn’t affect a guy’s commitment to staying on PrEP. See the findings here: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5630738/
Myth #5 - PrEP is too expensive
The price for PrEP in Ontario has come down by a lot. It is free for anyone 24 years old or under and it is covered by most health insurance plans and by all university health plans. If you don’t have coverage for PrEP, there’s the Trillium Drug Program. Trillium is funded by the Government of Ontario and you’ll pay a deductible based on your income.
Is Trillium right for you? Here’s what you need to know to get coverage for PrEP.
Well, now that a few of these myths surround PrEP have been busted, think about taking the next step and make an appointment with your doctor. If you’re still not sure, do some more research online, talk to people you know and trust, or ask your pharmacist or doctor about it.