With PrEP being a relatively new medication compared to longer established drugs. Because of this there are lots of rumors and lies that have been spread about it that have managed to gain traction.
These myths can stigmatize certain medications and can discourage people who should be using them from taking them.
So if you are considering starting to use PrEP but you have doubts about it and your understanding of what it does is blurry, read on to get these misconceptions corrected!
Myth Number 1 – PrEP Should Only Be Taken On Days When You Have Been Sexually Active
While prescriptions can vary based upon your circumstances, it is generally prescribed for PrEP to be taken daily, every day of the week.
If you take PrEP (see also ‘PrEP: Effects on Sexual Activity‘) this often you will be getting the full protections and benefits it offers to prevent you from contracting HIV.
In spite of this general recommendation, research has been done into intermittent PrEP which would only be taken when you are sexually active.
This is also known as ‘on-demand PrEP’. The study into this was done on men by Ipergay and made it, so the men had to prepare their dosage before and after their sexual activity.
While this test worked well and gave good protection to HIV, it was only done on a very limited sample group so acting like this under less controlled atmospheres is not recommended and it is advised to follow the dosage of your prescription.
Because of this, ‘on-demand PrEP’ has not been accepted by the majority of health boards due to the effects it may have on lasting immunity and may not work on sample sizes that have sex on a much more irregular basis.
This recommendation may change when there is more research, but currently it is recommended to follow the daily dosage recommendation.
Myth Number 2 – PrEP Removes The Need For Condoms
While PrEP will help to protect you from HIV and some other issues, it does little to protect you from other things that condoms will protect you from.
There are a multitude of STIs that will not be affected at all by PrEP but will be much less likely to spread when a condom is used. A lot of STIs can be prevented with proper protection that includes condoms.
If you are choosing to just use PrEP and forego using a condom you will be vulnerable to a litany of STIs like; Hep A, B, and C, syphilis, HPV, chlamydia, herpes, and gonorrhea.
While there is more protection that can be done against these STIs than just a condom, a condom will help a lot, much more than PrEP will against anything that is not HIV.
If you have already made the mistake of forgetting condoms in favor of PrEP, even if you think you have not caught anything, a lot of these issues have delayed symptoms so make sure to get tested and get proper treatment if you think there is any chance you could have caught something.
Myth Number 3 – PrEP Has Too Many Side Effects
This is a myth that comes with a lot of newer medications as people generally do not trust a new medication to not have side effects.
Luckily for PrEP this is mostly misconception, and compared to a lot of other medication, most side effects are not that bad.
If you do experience side effects it is shown that they will be bearable and will only usually affect you for the first few days or at most the first couple weeks.
Most of the side effects that people face are mild stomach pain or nausea, as well as issues like headaches and fatigue.
While there is a chance you may have a more severe reaction, this is shown to be quite unlikely and your doctor will usually be able to tell you how likely you are to face bad side effects when you are getting prescribed.
The side effects that can occasionally show up when taking PrEP (see also ‘What Are The Side Effects Of PrEP?‘) are nothing compared to the effects of contracting HIV, so if you are worried about side effects consult your personal doctor.
Myth Number 4 – You Should Only Be Taking PrEP If You Are Sexually Promiscuous
Sexual promiscuity is nothing to be ashamed of, but for a lot of history people who are having been shamed for their choices and certain things have become stigmatized because of this.
Even certain medication which can lead to people not taking something that they might need for fear of being labeled.
While PrEP (see also our article on how alcohol affects PrEP) is recommended for those who are sexually active and should be taken regularly if you think you may be at risk, even if you are less sexually active PrEP is still recommended.
The fear of HIV can be very oppressive and can stop you from having full control over your sex life.
This disease can affect anyone no matter what stereotypes may have you believe, so getting the proper protection will help you have a more empowered sex life.
If you have any plans to be sexually active and you do not want to be at risk of contracting HIV, getting a PrEP prescription will help you not have to worry about this nearly as much.
Myth Number 5 – Getting PrEP Costs Too Much
This point varies a lot depending on where you are in the world, and even where you are in a specific country.
Getting a prescription will generally help with making the medication more affordable, and in some places you can even get a prescription for free if you meet certain requirements.
The best thing you can do is research your local area and talk to a medical professional to see how you can get on PrEP and afford it!
Hopefully these myths and pointing out how untrue a lot of them are will help empower you to take control of your sex life and worry about HIV much less.
Make sure to get tested if you think you may have a chance of being positive and talk to a doctor about what you can do.