Hi! I’m Nick, and I’m the Nurse at Maple Leaf PrEP Clinic. I am thrilled to be writing my first blog post for ACAS. Over the years, I have received many questions about taking PrEP, so I’ve gathered all of the most commonly asked questions that you might have when considering whether or not you might want to start taking PrEP.
First of all, what is PrEP?
Simply put, PrEP is a pill you can take, where, if you take it daily and you happen to be exposed to HIV while you’re taking it, it will prevent you from becoming HIV positive. It is over 99% effective and is credited as a major reason why HIV rates have been dropping in recent years.
Is PrEP covered by OHIP?
Yes and no. In Ontario PrEP is fully covered by OHIP until the day you turn 25, after that OHIP no longer covers the cost of PrEP. The full cost of PrEP can be very expensive, but almost nobody actually pays this. There are so many clinic programs and insurance options now, so when people are on PrEP they’re able to get it for an affordable price or for free. It’s important to know that these programs also exist for people who don’t have OHIP.
What are the steps to getting PrEP?
Step one is to connect with a PrEP clinic. You don’t need a referral for these clinics, if you’re coming to my clinic all you need to do is either walk in or just email us (PrEP@mlmedical.com) and say you want to be on PrEP!
Once you’re linked to a clinic, you’ll be asked to do some bloodwork and STI testing. When your lab results are in, you’ll have an appointment with a doctor who goes over them with you and gets you started on PrEP.
Who should take PrEP?
The classic wisdom is that anyone at risk of contracting HIV should be on PrEP. This typically includes gay and bisexual men who have sex with more than one other person or people doing sex work, but I do see lots of patients who don’t necessarily fit into these boxes.
Lots of people choose to go on PrEP because they experience significant fear and anxiety surrounding HIV which has interfered with their ability to explore their sexuality, and PrEP has been helpful for them.
What are PrEP side effects?
When people first start taking PrEP, about half of them feel some light nausea and stomach upset for the first few days, sometimes a bit longer, but then it goes away.
In the long term, the clinic monitors your kidney function, since in some people PrEP can cause a decrease in kidney function that is reversible.
These are the main side effects, but for more information on side effects please go to catie.ca for some really comprehensive info. For anyone at significant risk of adverse side effects from taking PrEP, there are several mitigating options which you can discuss with your prescribing clinic.
Who can’t take PrEP?
Everyone can take PrEP.
Is there any program to help me pay for PrEP?
There are many programs to help you pay for PrEP.
Lots of people are getting their PrEP at an affordable cost these days, or even for free.
Do I need to see my family doctor before taking PrEP?
I am an international student, can I use international student insurance to cover the cost of PrEP?
Some international student insurance plans do cover PrEP and some don’t. A PrEP clinic can help check this for you. If your student insurance does not cover the cost of PrEP, there are still many other options available to you, so don’t get discouraged!
If you’re looking for more info about PrEP, ACAS offers information and referrals to help you learn more and get on PrEP. You can talk to the ACAS Men’s Program team who are very knowledgeable.
TLDR: Taking PrEP is easy. If you’re interested, you can ask your family doctor about it (if you’re comfortable with them) or talk directly to the Maple Leaf PrEP Clinic to book an appointment with one of the physicians or with me. Just email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and let us know you want to be on PrEP.
See you in my next blog post with ACAS!