How much does PrEP cost per month?

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Mohamed Imran Lakhi Content Administrator Published on: 03/03/2020 Updated on: 26/06/2020

What is Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) and what is it used for?

Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis or PrEP is a combination pill containing two antiretroviral medicines, taken by people who are HIV negative and want to reduce their risk of getting HIV.

The two medicines in PrEP are Tenofovir Disoproxil and Emtricitabine. They belong to a group of drugs used to treat HIV infection. Even though these medicines do not cure HIV, they work by entering the immune cells of the body and preventing HIV pathogens from multiplying and damaging other cells in the body.

Who is PrEP for?

Typically, PrEP is used by people who have a higher risk of getting HIV and would like to protect themselves against HIV infection. Some examples of high risk groups for getting HIV are:

  • Sex workers
  • IV drug users
  • Men who have sex with men (MSM)
  • Transgender people who have sex with men
  • People who have casual sex partners and do not know their HIV status
  • People who have sexual partners from countries with high HIV prevalence 

Is PrEP available on the NHS?

Currently, PrEP is only available on the NHS in some regions as part of a clinical trial, where you will first have to meet the eligibility criteria. Depending on where you live, the eligibility criteria will be different, so you should double check the criteria for your area.

There are about 200 sexual health clinics approved for PrEP trial recruitment across several regions in England. PrEP is also available on the NHS in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The regions in England with participating PrEP trial clinics are London, North East, North West, East Midlands, East of England, South East, South West, West Midlands and Yorkshire and Humber. Recruiting clinics in these regions are classified into four categories, describing their current status:

  • Open – currently enrolling participants
  • Paused to MSM – currently confirming new potential clinics for this group
  • Selected – in the setup process and will be open to recruitment soon
  • Full – no longer accepting new participants but still carries out follow-ups

While PrEP is currently still in its trial phase, the latest update from NHS England about its future availability stated that;

‘…work is continuing, involving the Department of Health and Social Care, Local Authority Commissioners, NHS England and NHS Improvement and Public Health England to plan for a seamless transition from the trial to the routine commissioning of PrEP. Further updates on this work will be shared in due course.’

As of February 2020, PrEP is not available on the NHS in England. So the only way to acquire PrEP in England, without signing up for a trial, is by buying it privately from clinics or online pharmacies.

If you are thinking about buying PrEP privately, speak to your doctor

Why should I speak to my doctor before starting PrEP?

Before starting PrEP, it is important to speak to your doctor who will be able to assess your risk and help you stay safe and healthy while on PrEP. During your visit, a few things your doctor would like to know are:

  • All your health conditions.
  • If you use or don’t use condoms – they can provide you with free condoms.
  • The number of sexual partners you have – past and current.
  • All medicines you are currently taking - you can check out medicines that could interact with PrEP here.

Your doctor would also be able to provide information on:

  • How to lower your risk of contracting HIV.
  • Common side effects of PrEP and what to do if you experience them.
  • The effectiveness of PrEP.
  • Regular testing for HIV and STI, including where and when to get tested.
  • The importance of checking your kidney function before and during treatment with PrEP.

What is the cost of PrEP?

The total cost of taking PrEP involves the cost of PrEP tablets, the cost of regular HIV/STI tests and the cost of additional protection to lower your risk of getting HIV.

Apart from the current PrEP trial on the NHS, you can get PrEP privately at a cost, from online pharmacies in the UK. If you would like to purchase PrEP from a confidential prescribing service, you can buy PrEP online from Prescription Doctor where a month’s supply of PrEP, which is 30 tablets, costs £49.95. The benefits of buying PrEP online include privacy, fast delivery of your medication and the convenience of getting the treatment you need on the go.

It is also important to be regularly tested for HIV (about once every 3 months) to make sure you remain HIV negative while taking PrEP. This is because HIV positive people who continue taking PrEP may develop resistance to the medicines used to treat HIV in the long run, making it difficult to treat them. HIV testing is available from local sexual health clinics and some GP surgeries. Alternatively, you can purchase HIV and STI test kits privately from Prescription Doctor online. Test kits bought online are just as accurate as those you would get from a sexual health clinic. Home testing kits make the process quick and easy. Simply provide the required sample(s), fill in the provided documentation and post it to the laboratory using the pre-paid envelope. Your results will be made available through a secure online portal.

While studies have shown that PrEP is effective at reducing the risk of getting HIV, it does not offer protection from other STIs like syphilis, gonorrhoea or chlamydia, so it is recommended to use additional forms of protection like condoms. You can get free condoms on the NHS from your local GP services or purchase them privately in stores or online.