Pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP, has been added to existing strategies to prevent HIV infection. PrEP requires a person who is HIV-negative to take a pill daily to reduce their risk of HIV infection. Studies have shown that PrEP reduces risk of infection in men who have sex with men as well as in heterosexual men and women.

Daily PrEP, with regular condom use and other HIV prevention methods, reduces HIV infection risk by up to 90%.

In July 2012, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the combination of FTC-TDF, or Truvada®, for use as PrEP among sexually active adults at risk for HIV infection.

Here are some quick facts about PrEP and more information about Truvada.

This video from does a great job explaining what PrEP is and how it works:

Quick Facts

  • PrEP uses Truvada® (FTC-TDF), an FDA-approved antiretroviral medication, to prevent HIV infection
  • PrEP should only be taken by people who are HIV-negative
  • Taking PrEP does not mean that you are 100% protected from getting infected with HIV
  • PrEP should not replace other safer sex practices, such as condom use
  • PrEP does not prevent other sexually transmitted infections
  • PrEP should only be taken with the support of a health care provider
  • Taking PrEP includes getting routine blood tests done
  • You may have side effects from taking PrEP

Before starting PrEP >>>

  • Have a thorough and honest talk about your sexual activity and HIV risk with a health care provider
  • Get an HIV test Test for hepatitis B, kidney function and sexually transmitted infections

What is Truvada?

prep hiv pill san diegoTruvada® is a pill made up of two HIV medications – Viread (tenofivir disoproxil fumarate) and Emtriva (emtricitabine). Currently, it is used together with other medications to treat HIV infection and hepatitis B. It is also approved by the FDA for preventing HIV infection.

What are the side effects?

Truvada® is usually well tolerated, but short-term side effects that were seen in PrEP studies included headaches, weight loss, nausea, diarrhea and stomach pain. No significant, long-term health effects have been seen in HIV-negative people who have taken PrEP for up to 5 years. However, it is known that Truvada® can cause bone loss and damage the kidneys in some people. Those who use PrEP need to be monitored closely.

When is PrEP right for you?

If you’re HIV-negative and are trying to stay that way, PrEP might be right for you. Here are some questions for you to consider:

  • Is your main sexual partner HIV-positive?
  • Has a man – especially an HIV-positive man or a man whose HIV status you are not sure about – penetrated you during vaginal or anal sex recently, without a condom?
  • Have you been treated recently for a sexually transmitted infection?
  • Do you or your sex partner(s) use alcohol and/or drugs heavily?
  • Do you or your sex partners(s) exchange sex for money, housing or other needs?

Where Can I Get PrEP?

PrEP must be prescribed by a medical provider, just like any other prescription. Several insurance companies cover the cost of PrEP and in certain instances, people may qualify to obtain PrEP directly from the manufacturer at no cost.

A number of PrEP research studies are being conducted in the U.S. For instance, the California HIV/AIDS Research Program of the University of California is funding PrEP studies for cisgender women and transgender populations. The women’s study is open and actively seeking participants; the transgender persons’ study is expected to open in Fall 2016 (both of these studies offer PrEP at no cost to participants).

While taking PrEP, you should have >>>

  • Doctor visits every 2-3 months
  • HIV tests at least every 3 months
  • Evaluations for side effects, adherence and risk

Women’s PrEP Study

Are You a Sexually Active Woman?

If so, you may be eligible to participate in a research study offering pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), a medication that you take daily to prevent you from getting HIV. This study will evaluate methods to help you take this medication, including text messaging and short counseling sessions.

What does the study involve?

  • Six study visits over a one year period
  • During each study visit, participants will receive PrEP medication at no cost, have blood work to make sure you are healthy and the medication is not causing problems, and respond to questions about your sexual health and how you are taking PrEP
  • Testing for HIV and STDs
  • Referrals to care or other services (if needed)
  • Compensation provided for your time and effort

Eligibility requirements:

  • Age 18 or older, assigned female at birth and currently identify as female
  • Sexually active, HIV-negative, and NOT currently pregnant

Interested in participating?

Please contact Kelly at (619) 543-2585 or and ask about the women’s PrEP study.

You can also complete the following form and a study representative will contact you.

UC San Diego AntiViral Research Center

220 Dickinson Street, Suite A

San Diego, CA 92103

Transgender PrEP Study

If you are interested in learning more about or participating in the upcoming UCSD Antiviral Research Center’s study for transgender persons and PrEP, please complete the following contact form and we will add you to our study wait list. Anticipated start time for the study is Fall 2016.

PrEP Resources

PrEP Resource Guide – San Diego (click here)

Our research staff has worked hard to put together a resource guide for San Diego that includes a list of doctors prescribing PrEP, what insurance(s) they accept, and financial resources to help pay for a PrEP prescription. The purpose of this guide is to offer information for getting a prescription for Truvada® as pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP). It does not guarantee coverage. Verify that your insurance is accepted BEFORE SCHEDULING AN APPOINTMENT with a doctor. Click to access a PDF of the PrEP Resource Guide for San Diego (click here).

Here are some informational sites that can provide you even more information about PrEP:


To learn more about PrEP and participating in a PrEP research study, contact the study site closest to where you live:

  • Carson – Harbor-UCLA, Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute
    323-343-8255 |
  • Los Angeles – AIDS Project LA Health & Wellness, Gleicher/Chen Health Center
  • Los Angeles – USC Rand Schrader Clinic 5P21
    323-343-8282 |
  • San Diego – UC San Diego AntiViral Research Center (AVRC)
    619-543-8080 |