PrEP is an antiretroviral medication that helps prevent you from contracting HIV. When taken correctly — either through pill or injection — it’s very effective.

Preexposure prophylaxis (PrEP) is a safe and effective way to prevent the contraction of HIV and can be taken either as a pill or injection. Which method is right for you?

Here’s what to consider about each method, including the pros and cons.

If you decide to take PrEP pills, you’ll take one pill every day. The more consistently you take PrEP, the better protected you are against HIV. There are two PrEP pill formulas available, and they both include a combination of antiretroviral medications.

The two pills approved for PrEP are:

  • Emtricitabine/tenofovir disoproxil fumarate (Truvada or generic): This is for people of any gender who may be exposed to HIV through sex or injected drug use.
  • Emtricitabine/tenofovir alafenamide (Descovy): This is for cisgender men who have sex with men and transgender women.

These pills need to be taken every day to be most effective. The more consistently you take your PrEP pills, the better they work to prevent HIV.

Pros of PrEP pills

Most private insurance plans, Medicaid, and Medicare will cover the cost of PrEP pills. If you don’t have medical coverage, a government program called Ready, Set, PrEP may help pay for PrEP pills. It will cover both types of PrEP pills (Truvada and Descovy) but does not yet cover the cost of injectable PrEP.

PrEP pills are taken daily on your own at home, so you won’t need to make appointments to get injections with a healthcare professional. You’ll still need regular follow-up, however, for HIV testing.

Although PrEP is typically something you take daily, oral PrEP may also be used on-demand in some cases. On-demand use involves taking oral PrEP before and after sexual contact. Make sure to check with your doctor about how you should take PrEP in this case.

Emtricitabine/tenofovir disoproxil fumarate (Truvada or generic) is only PrEP-approved for someone who may be exposed to HIV through injection drug use.

Cons of PrEP pills

For some people, it’s hard to remember to take daily medications, and oral PrEP needs to be taken every day to be most effective.

A few tricks to help remember: You can try pairing the medication with something you do daily, like brushing your teeth or drinking coffee. Pill dispensers or reminder apps can also be helpful to track whether you’ve taken the medication or not.

If you know that pills are too hard for you to swallow or that you’re likely to miss doses, oral PrEP might not be right for you.

At the end of 2021, the FDA approved a new way to take PrEP. An injectable option called cabotegravir (Apretude) came on the market. This is good news for many reasons, but just like the pills, this may not be the best option for everyone. Cabotegravir (Apretude) is approved for preventing HIV from sexual contact.

Injected PrEP involves a monthly injection for the first two months. After those first two doses, it involves an injection every two months. It is injected into muscles in the buttocks by a healthcare professional.

Pros of PrEP injectables

One big advantage of injected PrEP is not having to think about it and remember to take a pill every day. Injected PrEP might also be a better choice for someone who does not want others to find out that they use PrEP since it’s not a daily task.

Some people may feel unsure about getting an injection of a medication that lasts up to 2 months. You can make sure you tolerate the medication by using oral cabotegravir (Vocabria) for a month before starting injections.

Cons of PrEP injectables

The cost of cabotegravir (Apretude) is higher than pills. If you’re getting your PrEP through a government program that funds PrEP, it may not yet cover injectable PrEP. (There may still be other programs that are covering the cost of injected PrEP.)

Injected PrEP may not be a good option for you if you’re fearful of needles. This medication is injected into muscles in your buttocks by a healthcare professional. You’ll initially need monthly appointments to get this shot.

Cabotegravir (Apretude) is only approved for use by people who may come into contact with HIV through sexual contact, not for those who may contract HIV through injected drugs.

The more consistently you take PrEP, the more effective it is for HIV prevention. The best choice for you will depend on several factors and discussion with your healthcare professional, as different types of PrEP are approved for different populations.

Both pills and injected PrEP are very effective: Research shows that PrEP can reduce the risk of contracting HIV through sexual contact by up to 99%. For people who inject drugs and may be exposed to HIV that way, PrEP can reduce this risk by 74%.

If you think you would benefit from taking PrEP, discuss it with your healthcare professional so you can explore your options.

Choosing to be on PrEP is an important decision you can make to take charge of your health. Both pills and injected PrEP are safe and effective.

You should first consider their HIV risk factors and discuss them with your healthcare professional. It’s also smart to explore which factors may help you be more consistent with taking PrEP.

PrEP is a type of antiretroviral medication, but it’s not the same combination used for someone who is living with HIV. PrEP can be harmful for someone who is living with HIV because it may cause drug resistance to antiretroviral medications. This can make it much harder to manage HIV.

Before starting PrEP, you’ll be tested for HIV. You can only take PrEP if you’re HIV-negative. If you test positive for HIV, PrEP is no longer the right option. Instead, you’ll start on antiretrovirals.

There have been amazing advances in HIV management. The right treatment can lower the levels of HIV in the body to an undetectable level. When the viral load is undetectable, HIV can’t be passed to someone else.

Being on PrEP includes regular follow-ups with your healthcare professional and getting tested for HIV every 2 to 3 months. You can only stay on PrEP if you’re HIV-negative.

Preexposure prophylaxis (PrEP) is a safe and effective way for anyone at risk of HIV exposure to prevent contracting HIV. PrEP is available as a daily pill or can be injected every 1 to 2 months by a healthcare professional.

There are several factors to consider when deciding which is the best option. This is an important conversation to have with your healthcare professional.