SummaryRead the full fact sheet
- Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) is an oral medication that prevents HIV in people at risk of infection with the virus.
- PrEP reduces the risk of getting HIV by up to 99% when taken as prescribed.
- All GPs (doctors) in Australia can prescribe PrEP.
- PrEP doesn’t protect against sexually transmissible infections (STI). Condoms are still the best protection against STIs (including syphilis, gonorrhoea, and chlamydia).
- HIV transmission can also be prevented by using condoms during anal or vaginal sex, using sterile injecting equipment, not sharing injecting equipment or achieving and maintaining “undetectable” HIV viral loads if you are HIV-positive.
What is PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis)?
PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) is an oral medication taken by HIV-negative people to protect them from contracting HIV.
When taken daily, or on-demand under the advice of a doctor, PrEP is up to 99% effective at preventing HIV.
When to take PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis)
Currently approved PrEP is a single tablet that contains 2 HIV antiretroviral (ART) medications used to treat HIV. It is usually taken daily.
PrEP can also be taken when you need it (known as PrEP on-demand). It is important to see a GP for guidance on how to follow the strict dosage instructions for protection against HIV.
Remember, PrEP isn’t for everyone and there are other HIV prevention options available.
What PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) is used for
PrEP is for HIV-negative people at risk of HIV infection. This includes:
- Men who have sex with men without .
- Having a sexual partner who has HIV and is not on treatment, or are at high risk of getting HIV.
- People who are sexually active and inconsistently use condoms.
Your circumstances and your risk of being exposed to HIV should all play a role in deciding whether PrEP is right for you.
Speak with your doctor to see if PrEP is your best option to prevent HIV.
Where to get PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis)
All GPs (doctors) in Australia can prescribe PrEP. If you have a card, it can be purchased at a subsidised cost from pharmacies, with a valid prescription. (Some pharmacies may need to order the medication in, which may take a few days.)
If you do not have a Medicare card, or cannot afford the subsidised cost, PrEP can be imported through online pharmacies. More information is available from PAN (PrEP Access Now) or the Victorian PrEP Service at the Alfred Hospital (PrEPME Clinic) on .
PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) effectiveness
Studies show that PrEP is highly effective in preventing HIV when taken consistently as prescribed. It can reduce the risk of getting HIV by up to 99%.
Possible PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) side effects
Most people who take PrEP don’t experience side effects. Some may have mild effects that usually usually disappear within the first month. These include:
If you have any concerns about side effects, see your doctor.
Important things to know about PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis)
At your first appointment and before starting PrEP, your doctor will check your health and organise some tests including:
You will also receive information about how to reduce your risk of HIV infection.
PrEP must be taken as prescribed for maximum effective protection.
Visit your doctor every 3 months while on PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis)
See your GP every 3 months for repeat HIV and STI tests and for a new PrEP prescription.
PrEP can have some side effects, so work with your doctor to monitor your general health.
Condoms and lubricant can provide protection against and reduce the risk of spreading an STI.
It is important to have a sexual health test every 3 months while on PrEP, even if you have no symptoms.
How long to take PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis)
The length of time people need to be on PrEP medication depends on their personal circumstances.
People may stop taking PrEP if:
- Their risk of HIV infection becomes low because of lifestyle changes.
- They don't want to take medication every day or often forget to take their medication. may work better for you.
- Medication side effects are interfering with their life.
- show the body is reacting to PrEP medication in unsafe ways.
Your doctor may decide there are other options.
Stopping PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis)
Talk with your doctor if you are having trouble remembering to take your medication or if you want to stop PrEP.
It is important to make sure that you continue taking PrEP for 28 days after your last potential exposure to HIV before ceasing it.
Other HIV prevention options
There are many easy and effective ways to prevent HIV. Other than PrEP, HIV transmission can also be prevented by:
- (including ) with water or silicone-based lubricant during anal or vaginal sex.
- Although there is a low risk of HIV transmission during , using or dental dams on vulvas and anuses. This can also help to reduce the risk of other STIs from being passed on.
- Using clean, sterile injecting equipment.
- Achieving and maintaining “undetectable” HIV viral loads (U=U) if you have HIV by taking HIV antiretroviral treatment (ART) as prescribed.
- Getting regular sexual health checks.
- – if you think you have been exposed to HIV.
Depending on your risk factors and lifestyle, you may be more suited to other HIV prevention methods. It is important to find the right prevention method (or combination of methods) that works for you and your sexual partners.
Speak to your GP or sexual health clinician for more information.
Where to get help
- Your local community health service
- – information line Tel 1800 889 887 (Monday-Friday 9am-5pm)
- . To book an appointment call SHV Melbourne CBD Clinic: or call SHV Box Hill Clinic: or (free call): . These services are youth friendly.
- Tel. or or TTY (for the hearing impaired)
- If you believe you may have been exposed to HIV. Tel.
- Tel. or (for country callers)
- , Centre for Culture, Ethnicity and Health Tel.
- (formerly Victorian AIDS Council) Tel. or
- Tel. Or
- , Wodonga Tel. or
- (throughout Victoria)