Prophylaxis lowers the risk of certain diseases. If you regularly have unprotected sex or use shared needles, pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) can help you. These drugs reduce the likelihood of getting human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). Protecting yourself against HIV is a step toward living a long, healthy life.
If you’re at risk of contracting human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), PrEP can help. Prophylaxis is a therapy that prevents disease. PrEP uses medications to lower the risk of HIV.
You may be at risk for HIV if you:
HIV is an infection caused by a virus that attacks your body’s immune system. People transmit the virus through:
Severe cases of HIV can lead to acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS). This condition weakens your ability to fight infection and does not have a good outlook. This is why HIV prevention through PrEP is so important. PrEP could potentially save your life.
Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy
This treatment is for:
You'll need a prescription from a healthcare provider. Before writing the prescription, the healthcare provider will perform a physical exam and run a few tests. These tests rule out conditions that prevent you from being on PrEP, such as:
The healthcare provider will also test you for other infections that can occur in people at risk for HIV, including:
There are a few options, including:
Side effects depend on the type of PrEP you receive.
Common side effects include:
Rare but serious side effects may include:
Injectable PrEP has many of the same side effects as the daily oral versions. Additional side effects include skin irritations at the injection site, such as:
Taking PrEP significantly lowers your risk of getting HIV, even if you’re exposed to the virus through unprotected sex or shared needles.
When taken as prescribed, PrEP reduces the risk of HIV by approximately:
If PrEP doesn’t work, you could develop an HIV infection. Once you have the virus, it stays with you for life.
Additional information you should know:
The medications in PrEP may interact with other medications, including:
Following these guidelines can optimize results and protect you against complications:
You may wish to stay on PrEP if you continue to be at risk for HIV due to unprotected sex or shared needles.
Sometimes it’s appropriate to stop taking PrEP. Talk to a healthcare provider before discontinuing PrEP.
Reasons to discontinue PrEP include:
While taking PrEP, contact your healthcare provider if you have:
In addition, call your healthcare provider if you think you’re pregnant or could become pregnant.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
PrEP includes medications that lower your risk of getting HIV from unprotected sex or shared needles. Talk to your healthcare provider to find out if PrEP is right for you. Even if you don’t regularly see a provider, there are medical professionals in your community who can help you access this treatment. If you need help finding a provider, talk to a pharmacist or local health resource center.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 08/01/2022.
Learn more about our editorial process.