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From 5th October 2020 PrEP has been available on the NHS in Birmingham and Solihull via the Umbrella sexual health service.

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What is PrEP?

PrEP stands for Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis.

PrEP is a way for people who don’t have HIV, but who are at high risk of getting it, to prevent HIV infection. This is by taking a pill containing two medicines, that are also used to treat HIV, at periods of high risk. If you take PrEP and are exposed to HIV through sex, these medicines can work to keep the virus from taking hold in your body*.

PrEP can be combined with condoms and other prevention methods to provide even greater protection than when used alone.

There are two proven ways of using PrEP when the risk is from anal sex.  One is to take it all the time during periods of risk (the PROUD study)  and the other (the IPERGAY study) is to take a double dose 2-24 hours before you know you are going to have risky sex and then daily until 48 hours after you stop having risky sex. Both methods have been proven to work but there is more research to support the PROUD method of daily use. For vaginal sex only this daily method has been proven to work.  People who use PrEP must be HIV negative and must commit to taking the drugs properly. They need regular HIV and STI testing need checking that the drugs have no serious side effects with blood and urine tests to make sure that the medicine are not affecting your kidneys.  This is because if PrEP is used after HIV infection it can make treatment more complicated.

Who can use PrEP?

PrEP is not suitable for everyone. The aim of PrEP is for it to be used for people who are HIV-negative and at high risk for HIV infection. This may include anyone who is in an ongoing relationship with an untreated HIV-positive partner as well as for people who are having risky unprotected sex who find it difficult to consistently use condoms as a prevention method.

People who inject drugs or have shared needles might also consider using PrEP. For example, if you engage in Chemsex PrEP will not protect you against Hepatitis C and how effective it is for preventing HIV infection from injecting is unclear.

If you have a partner who is HIV-positive and are considering getting pregnant, talk to your doctor about PrEP. It may be an option to protect you and your baby.

PrEP involves taking medication regularly during periods of high risk and regular visits to a GP or other clinic for U and E (Urine and Electrolyte) tests to monitor your kidney health and regularly be screened for HIV infection.

PrEP should only be used for people who are at ongoing substantial risk of HIV infection. For people who need to prevent HIV after a single high-risk event of potential HIV exposure—such as sex without a condom, needle-sharing injecting drug use, or sexual assault—there is another option called Post Exposure Prophylaxis for Sexual Exposure, or PEPSE. PEPSE treatment must begin within 72 hours of exposure. More on PEPSE here.

It’s also important to remember that taking PrEP will not prevent you from getting other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) such as syphilis, gonorrhoea, chlamydia, or other STIs, or from becoming pregnant. PrEP will also not protect you from getting hepatitis C.

How well does PrEP work?

In 2 recent studies (PROUD and IPERGAY) PrEP has been shown to significantly reduce the risk of HIV infection in people who are at high risk from anal sex by as much as 86%, overall.  It is thought that the infections that did occur were in people who did not take their medication properly.  There has been a report of someone on PrEP who became infected by someone with antiviral resistant virus.

PrEP is much less effective if it is not taken properly  PrEP can be even more effective if it is combined with other ways to prevent new HIV infections such as condom use, drug treatment, and adherence to treatment for people living with HIV to further reduce the chance of HIV being passed on.

Read more about PrEP and the PROUD and IPERGAY studies here:

Does PrEP have side effects?

Some people in clinical studies of PrEP had early side effects such as an upset stomach or loss of appetite, headache, but these are usually mild and usually go away within the first month. Some people did have some kidney disturbance but this did not lead to serious long-term kidney problems.

The medication used in PrEP has been used to treat people living with HIV for many years and has been shown to be low risk of serious side effects. However, if using PrEP and you are experiencing side effects, you should discuss this with the GP or clinic where you are having your regular checkups.  Ideally, you have a kidney function blood test and a urine test before you start and may need this repeating if you remain on PrEP.

PrEP on the NHS (in Birmingham and Solihull)

From 5th October 2020 PrEP is available on the NHS in Birmingham and Solihull via the Umbrella sexual health service.  This is only with tenofovir disoproxil fumarate and not the newer tenofovir alfenamide.

If you would like access PrEP on the NHS call Umbrella Sexual Health on 0121 237 5700. You may then be booked into a telephone clinic initially. You  will need sexual health tests, and in particular a negative HIV test before you start PrEP.

If you have any other queries, call sexual health team at Birmingham LGBT on 0121 643 0821.

Can’t get PrEP on the NHS right now? Where can I get PrEP in the UK?

PrEP is now available on the NHS in the UK. Some people still choose, for differrent reasons, to purchase / obtain PrEP via the internet.

NB: The NHS will only supply tenofovir disoproxil fumarate and not tenofovir alfenamide. 

There are always risks in buying anything online, but we have included the following links for you to obtain more information if you are considering buying or acquiring PrEP:

Can I get PrEP privately in the UK?:

Where can I buy PrEP online and is it legal in the UK?: 

How can I check that PrEP I buy from the internet is genuine:

How do I safely use PrEP if I buy it online?:

Recommended reading if considering buying PrEP online: and

What is the medication used in PrEP?

The pill used by people using PrEP for daily use who are at  high risk of getting HIV infection is called Truvada®.

Truvada® is a combination of two HIV medications (tenofovir and emtricitabine). In other parts of the world it is available as a cheaper generic (non patented) product.  Most commonly this is from an Indian company called Cipla.  These medicines work by blocking important pathways that HIV uses to set up an infection. If you take PrEP daily, the presence of the medicine in your bloodstream can stop HIV from taking hold and infecting you with the virus.

Dosage is very important: If you do not take PrEP properly  there may not be enough medicine in your bloodstream to block the HIV virus. If you become infected with HIV the virus may then have some resistance to Truvada and may affect your later treatment.

Read more about PrEP and the PROUD and IPERGAY studies here:

PrEP Clinics

Pleas see the ‘Our Clinics’ page or click here

PrEP information videos

Informational videos by click here

PrEP 4 Trans (Trans Men) information video here.

PrEP 4 Trans (Trans Women) information video here.

Umbrella PrEP information leaflet & website

To read the Umbrella ‘Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP)’ leaflet click here.

To be directed to Umbrella’s PrEP website information click here.

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