Due to the COVID-19 crisis and lockdown, New Zealand’s health system is under significant pressure and this may impact your ability to get PrEP at this time.
- Many sexual health clinics have temporarily suspended PrEP appointments – you should call them to check before turning up at their services.
- You may be able to get PrEP from a GP/family doctor but you will likely need to have your appointment via phone or video.
- To keep COVID-19 transmissions as low as possible, we are recommending not to engage in casual sex at this time. Consider whether you need PrEP during this time or can wait until the lockdown is lifted. For men who have sex with men, PrEP can be safely discontinued by taking the tablets for two consecutive days (48 hours) after your last condomless sex – it doesn’t matter if you take it daily or on-demand (2-1-1). It is important to remember that HIV testing needs to be done prior to restarting PrEP.
PrEP is a daily pill for HIV negative people that provides protection from HIV. Studies have shown that if it is taken as prescribed, PrEP reduces the risk of getting HIV by up to 99%.
While PrEP protects against HIV, it doesn’t do anything to stop other STIs. It also doesn’t protect you from unplanned pregnancy.
PrEP is a good option for people who are at risk of HIV. This includes HIV negative partners of people who are positive, and gay and bisexual men who struggle with consistent condom use. Also, if you are planning to travel to a country where there is a high prevalence of HIV, and think there’s a good chance you will have condomless sex, PrEP could be right for you.
Fast facts about PrEP
There are a few things to be aware of when it comes to PrEP:
- The first step to accessing PrEP is a visit to a PrEP prescribing doctor, or sexual health clinic. They will run a few tests. Importantly, they’ll test you for HIV, as you can’t go on PrEP if you are already living with HIV.
- PrEP works by building up a certain level of drug in the body. For those having anal sex it is recommended you take PrEP 7 days before sex and 28 days after. For those having vaginal sex it is recommended to take PrEP 20 days before and 28 days after.
- You have to take PrEP every day for it to be as effective as possible. If you miss a dose of PrEP don’t double dose as you might make yourself sick. Just resume your normal dose the next day – or get in touch with your doctor.
- PrEP does not provide protection from any other STIs like syphilis or gonorrhoea.
- PrEP can affect your kidneys, and also has other potential side effects, like an upset stomach. It’s important to get in touch with your doctor if you experience anything unusual while on PrEP.
How do I get PrEP?
You must be sure that you are HIV negative before you start taking PrEP. Also, PrEP can be hard on your kidneys – so your kidneys to be checked by a doctor before you start taking it.
You need a prescription from a doctor to access PrEP – but this might not be as simple as you think. Not all doctors know about PrEP, so we’ve put together a list of doctors who are trained to administer PrEP:
Once you start PrEP, you need to check in with your doctor every three months, just to make sure everything is tracking fine.
If you want to avoid doctor’s fees, which can be pricey, the other option is to visit a sexual health clinic. There are sexual health clinics in most major centers around the country. Search for ‘sexual health’ and the name of the closest major town e.g. ‘Auckland’ ‘Hamilton’. Appointments at sexual health clinics are free and confidential.
If none of these options work for you, get in touch with the Pamoja team and we’ll do what we can to help.