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PrEP is HIV Prevention for Women

PrEP is a form of HIV prevention that can work for anyone – straight, gay or bi-sexual.  Male, female, transgender or gender non-conforming.  Just like HIV can affect anyone, PrEP can be a great choice for anyone who wants to protect themselves from HIV.  The information on this page is for cis gender women.

What should women know about PrEP?

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PrEP is about being prepared

Just like many women use birth control to prevent pregnancy, PrEP is a medication you take by mouth each day that safely and effectively protects you from HIV.  It empowers you and puts you in control of your own health.

PrEP and HIV Testing

PrEP is only for people who are not living with HIV (same as HIV negative) so the first step is to have an HIV test. While you are taking PrEP, your health care provider will test you for HIV periodically to make sure you remain HIV negative.

Timing is Important

Depending on your sexual behaviors, the length of time you have to take PrEP for it to protect you will vary.

  • For PrEP to protect you during anal intercourse, you have to take PrEP for at least one week. 
  • For PrEP to protect you during vaginal intercourse, you have to take PrEP for at least three weeks.

So, be sure to use a male or female latex or polyurethane condom to protect yourself from HIV during the start-up phase of one week before anal intercourse or three weeks before vaginal intercourse.  

PrEP is for anyone who has a partner who is living with HIV

Taking PrEP every day can protect you from HIV, reduce your worry about getting HIV and allow you and your partner to feel closer.

If you are exploring relationships with several different people

and you want to protect yourself and them, PrEP is a good option. Remember, by protecting yourself from HIV, you are protecting your current and future partners.

PrEP and STDs

It’s important to remember that PrEP does not protect you from sexually transmitted infections (STIs), like syphilis, gonorrhea or chlamydia. Using a male or female condom with PrEP will protect you from most STIs. When you are taking PrEP, your health care provider will periodically test you for STIs. Early diagnosis and treatment of STIs will help protect your health and prevent passing STIs to your partners.

Let’s talk about anal intercourse

Many women and men engage in anal intercourse. There is a greater chance for blood to be present during anal intercourse than during vaginal intercourse and this increases the risk for HIV. If you have anal intercourse with partners who may have HIV or whose status you are not sure of, then PrEP can help protect you from HIV. You have to take PrEP for at least one week for it to protect you from HIV during anal intercourse.

PrEP and Women’s Health Care

As a woman, you have special health care needs such as a regular breast exam, PAP smears and family planning/birth control needs if you are of child-bearing age. You can talk about PrEP with any of your health care providers - your primary care provider, women’s health care provider or family planning provider. PrEP involves medical appointments every three months so it can be more convenient if you get PrEP from a health care provider you already see.

PrEP and Pregnancy

If you are a woman seeking to become pregnant with an HIV positive male, PrEP may be an option to protect you from HIV exposure when trying to become pregnant. Talk with your health care provider about whether PrEP is right for you if you are thinking about becoming pregnant, are already pregnant or are breastfeeding.

PrEP is about choice

It is up to you to decide how you feel about PrEP. If you’d like to talk with a health care provider or counselor about PrEP, check out the Department of Health PrEP Provider Directory or talk with your own health care provider.

HIV Prevention Just Got Easier… for WOMEN!