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6 Tips for Starting PrEP

Our college correspondent shares his advice to people taking PrEP (or thinking about it) for the first time.

6 Tips for Starting PrEP Image

Awesome. You decided that PrEP is right for you and to finally get your hands on a prescription, but you may be asking . . . now what? 

Unfortunately for me, obtaining a PrEP prescription was quite a voyage. When I first started out on this journey, I was not yet aware of the more convenient option of receiving PrEP through a telehealth company like Nurx. Thus, I spent many hours in doctors’ waiting rooms, made copious calls to my insurance company, and embarked on monthly trips to the pharmacy. After a few weeks of dealing with these logistics, I had my prescription in hand and breathed a heavy sigh of relief. Here is what I have learned since starting PrEP a little over a year ago: 

Stay on Track 

I can’t lie and tell you it is easy for me to remember to take PrEP every day because it is not. As a non-stop college student with virtually no continuity in my day-to-day, I had to find ways to hold myself accountable to take PrEP once a day because I know just how important it is. PrEP is incredibly effective in preventing HIV, but only if you take it. Although some folks use the “2-1-1 method,” which involves taking the drug before and after sex rather than every day, the prescription is proven to be effective (99% to be exact) in preventing HIV infection if taken every day. To make myself prioritize my sexual health and stay on track with PrEP, I set phone reminders, alarms, and keep the pill bottle visible on my nightstand. I incorporate PrEP into my morning routine with my morning coffee, which has helped me stick with it. 

Use a Condom 

Although PrEP is, in my opinion, one of the keys to sexual well-being, it still does not prevent other sexually transmitted infections, which is why condom usage is still the a big part of sexual self-care. STIs like syphilis and gonorrhea are on the rise, and having an STI can put you at higher risk of contracting HIV. Go to a local pharmacy or Planned Parenthood Center and get a handful of condoms to keep in your bedside table. With PrEP and a condom, you will feel doubly safe, happy, and ready to have some fun. 

Get Tested 

While maintaining a PrEP prescription, you are required to get lab work once every three months or so, to ensure that you are still HIV negative and that your kidneys are healthy. (Truvada, the original medication for PrEP, isn’t recommended for people with kidney problems. Use of Descovy, a newer PrEP medication, can be safe for people with pre-existing kidney issues, if monitored). At first, testing may seem like a burden, but, as sexual beings, we should all get tested once every three months, whether we are on or off PrEP. I know it can be hard to remember and easy to become lazy scheduling an appointment to get tested and thus renew your PrEP prescription. But, it is crucial and worth it to stay motivated, stay on top of it, and stay safe. (And Nurx solves this issue by sending you a home test kit every three months so you can get it done from the comfort of home.)

Get the Gilead Co-pay Card 

When I went into the pharmacy to pick up my first bottle of PrEP pills, I was astonished to see that my co-pay was $100. That would mean PrEP would cost me $1,200/year and put me in a difficult predicament, as I was forced to consider the cost/benefit analysis of paying a hefty price for a drug that could be potentially life-saving. But, then I was given an incredible tip: join the   Gilead Co-pay Coupon Program. This coupon card covers my entire co-pay, bringing my total from $100 to $0 just by signing up. If you use PrEP and have a co-pay, get this card

Plan in Advance 

With testing and prescription renewal, comes planning. Schedule your doctors’ appointments and pharmacy pickups in advance, so you don’t fall behind on your PrEP and become vulnerable to HIV infection. Many insurance companies also allow you to obtain a three-month, rather than a one-month supply of PrEP. With just one call to your insurance company, you can find out if you are eligible for this three-month supply. With this three month prescription, you can save yourself a monthly schlep to the pharmacy or, with Nurx, to the mailbox! 

Talk to Someone & Ask For Help 

Unfortunately, there are challenging moments to starting up a PrEP prescription. It takes time and effort to prioritize your health and safety, but it is worth it. If you are confused or worried about the process, there are people to talk to. Whether it is a trusted friend, mentor, or family member, initiating a conversation and receiving advice about the prescription process can be extremely helpful. And, of course, Nurx is here to help! Team Nurx can support you by walking you through different PrEP options and answering any of your questions, keeping it anonymous and easy.

 

About the Author

David Garnick is from the Philadelphia area and is a rising sophomore planning to double major in political science and urban studies at the University of Pennsylvania, where he is also a representative on the Undergraduate Assembly and a member of its task force to promote PrEP on campus.

 

This blog pro­vides infor­ma­tion about telemed­i­cine, health and related sub­jects. The blog content and any linked materials herein are not intended to be, and should not be con­strued as a substitute for, med­ical or healthcare advice, diagnosis or treatment. Any reader or per­son with a med­ical con­cern should con­sult with an appropriately-licensed physi­cian or other healthcare provider. This blog is provided purely for informational purposes. The views expressed herein are not sponsored by and do not represent the opinions of Nurx™.

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