What is PrEP?

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Why You Need to Get Labs Done While on PrEP

written by Tessa Chatham Registered Nurse Written by Tessa Chatham Registered Nurse
Tessa Chatham Registered Nurse

Tessa Chatham Registered Nurse

Tessa is a MSN prepared Registered Nurse with 10 years of critical care experience in healthcare. When not practicing clinical nursing, she enjoys academic writing and is passionate about helping those affected by medical aliments live healthy lives.

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reviewed by Vincent Covelli, MD Reviewed by Vincent Covelli, MD
Vincent Covelli, MD

Vincent Covelli, MD

Dr. Vincent Covelli is board certified in both Internal Medicine and Infectious Diseases. He completed his fellowship in Infectious Diseases at the University of Virginia (UVA) School of Medicine, and his residency in Internal Medicine at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine. In his free time, Dr. Covelli enjoys cooking and eating international cuisines, skiing, running, as well as spending time with his wife and son.

June 15, 2022 Read Time - 5 minutes

What is PrEP Testing?

PrEP testing is a type of medical test used for people prescribed PrEP medications. PrEP is a daily medication used by people to lower their chances of getting HIV. 

Why Do You Need Labs Done While on PrEP?

Getting labs done while on PrEP helps to keep you safe by making sure the medication is working. PrEP testing requirements include follow-up labs, doctor visits, prescription refills, and counseling for medication adherence.

  • Book on our free mobile app or website.

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What Lab Tests are Needed for PrEP?

Blood labs are needed prior to starting PrEP (including HIV screening). These lab tests are needed before you start PrEP and while you are taking PrEP as maintenance. Lab tests tell the doctor if any issues occur or if you need to change medications.

What Lab Tests Should I Take Before Starting PrEP?

Before starting PrEP, your doctor will prescribe the following lab tests:

  • HIV test
  • Kidney Function Test
  • Hepatitis B test
  • Liver Function Test
  • Pregnancy Test

You must be HIV-negative before you can begin taking PrEP. This is why an HIV test is performed prior to you taking PrEP therapy. 

If you believe you have been exposed to HIV in the past 6 weeks, your doctor may prescribe a more sensitive test called a “viral load” test.

If you have been exposed within the last 72 hours, your doctor may give you a special dose called a PEP dose (post-exposure prophylaxis) before starting PrEP therapy.

Kidney function tests monitor your kidney health and tell doctors if your kidneys are strong enough to handle taking PrEP. Having a baseline (starting point) value of your kidney function is used to keep track of kidney function levels while on PrEP. Your doctor can tell by your levels if PrEP is hurting your kidneys over time.

It is preferred that you test negative for hepatitis B prior to starting PrEP therapy. Your doctor may suggest taking the hepatitis B vaccine prior to beginning PrEP therapy to keep you safe. If you currently have hepatitis B, taking PrEP can make hepatitis much worse. Liver function tests are used in conjunction with hepatitis B testing as an additional screening tool for hepatitis; however, liver function panel testing is not generally used during maintenance lab testing. 

Your doctor will need to know if you are pregnant before starting PrEP. If you are pregnant, your doctor will give you additional information about PrEP therapy during pregnancy.

What Lab Tests Should I Take While on PrEP?

While you are taking PrEP, your doctor will prescribe the following lab tests:

  • HIV Test (every 3 months)
  • Sexually transmitted infections STIs swabs (every 3 to 6 months)
  • Kidney Function Tests (every 6 months)
  • Pregnancy Test (every 3 months)

Your doctor will test for HIV every 3 months while you are on PrEP. This will confirm that you are negative for HIV and that the PrEP therapy is working. If you become HIV positive on PrEP, your doctor will adjust your medications.

STIs should be tested every 3 to 6 months, depending on what you and your doctor decide. These tests may include blood, urine, or swab samples. Blood and urine tests may not show certain types of infections, which is why other body fluid swab samples may be used. Liver Function Tests are not recommended or required once you begin taking PrEP.


Read More: STD Testing Online


Kidney tests are used to monitor your kidney function while taking PrEP. If your levels become dangerous, your doctor will stop your PrEP treatment, temporarily. Usually, kidney levels will return to normal within 3 to 6 months, at which time, PrEP can be restarted. 

How Often is New Lab Testing Required for PrEP Patients?

PrEP testing is required for initial treatment and then every three months.

Does PrEP Require Blood Work?

Yes, PrEP requires blood work before you begin taking the medication and during the course of treatment, as well as about every 3 months. 

Blood work is necessary to provide safe treatment while on PrEP. Lab testing is a preventative measure used by doctors to catch problems early.

Who Qualifies for PrEP?

Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) is a medication given to those who are at high risk for HIV. PrEP is taken to prevent HIV that is contracted from sex or by injecting drugs. 

PrEP prevents HIV from infecting the body and taking on a full-blown infection. PrEP blocks the HIV virus from entering the cells. Those at risk to contract HIV qualify for PrEP. Those at risk who qualify include:

  • Women who have a partner with HIV and are considering getting pregnant
  • People who have had a sexual partner with HIV
  • Those who do not consistently use a condom
  • Those who are diagnosed with STIs within the past 5 months
  • People who use IV drugs, share needles or other injection equipment

How Much Do Labs and Visits for PrEP cost?

In most cases, PrEP is covered under the Affordable Care Act and is free under almost all health insurance plans. In addition, labs and visits for PrEP are free with most insurance plans since it is considered preventive care. If you do not have insurance, you can get a discount on labs through other means. 

The US Department of Health and Human Services offers a “Ready, Set, PrEP” program that provides PrEP at no cost for people without prescription coverage. Some of these programs are pay-as-you-can types also known as sliding-scale payment methods.

  • Book on our free mobile app or website.

    Our doctors operate in all 50 states and same day appointments are available every 15 minutes.

  • See a doctor, get treatment and a prescription at your local pharmacy.

  • Use your health insurance just like you normally would to see your doctor.

PlushCare-App-Steps

Talk to a Doctor Online About Labs for PrEP

If you think PrEP might be right for you, or you want to learn more about PrEP therapy, then make an appointment today to speak with an online doctor. PrEP is a primary care preventive service that is covered under almost all health insurance plans. Talk to your PlushCare doctor about PrEP therapy to learn more.


Read More About PrEP


Sources:

PlushCare is dedicated to providing you with accurate and trustworthy health information.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Learn About PrEP. Accessed on June 11, 2022 at https://www.cdc.gov/hiv/clinicians/prevention/prep.html 

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. HIV Pre-exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) Care System. Accessed on June 11, 2022 at https://www.cdc.gov/hiv/effective-interventions/prevent/prep/index.html 

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Starting and Stopping PrEP. Accessed on June 11, 2022 at https://www.cdc.gov/hiv/basics/prep/starting-stopping-prep.html 

HIV.gov. Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis. Accessed on June 11, 2022 at https://www.hiv.gov/hiv-basics/hiv-prevention/using-hiv-medication-to-reduce-risk/pre-exposure-prophylaxis 

MedlinePlus. HIV: PrEP and PEP. Accessed on June 11, 2022 at https://medlineplus.gov/hivprepandpep.html

Most PlushCare articles are reviewed by M.D.s, Ph.Ds, N.P.s, nutritionists and other healthcare professionals. Click here to learn more and meet some of the professionals behind our blog. The PlushCare blog, or any linked materials are not intended and should not be construed as medical advice, nor is the information a substitute for professional medical expertise or treatment. For more information click here.

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