HIV Prevention (PrEP and PEP)
Adolescents and young adults who are sexually active or who use substances can be at risk for HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs). At Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, we provide trauma-informed, sex-positive prevention services for young people.
HIV is transmitted through contact with certain bodily fluids from an infected person. But there are several steps you can take to protect yourself:
- Have safe sex. Using a condom helps prevent infection with HIV and other STIs. So does limiting your number of sexual partners.
- Get tested. Know your status and your partner’s status before having sex. Get tested for HIV and STIs. If you or your partner test positive for any STIs, get treated before having sex.
- Do not inject drugs. But if you do, always use clean equipment and never share needles, syringes or other equipment.
- Ask about biomedical prevention. There are medications that help reduce the risk of HIV infection. Find out if PrEP or PEP is right for you.
Learn more about HIV transmission.
Biomedical HIV Prevention
HIV is a retrovirus. Antiretroviral (ARV) medications can help prevent HIV infection and transmission. Types of biomedical HIV prevention include PrEP, PEP and TasP.
What is PrEP?
Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) includes a daily oral antiretroviral medication or bimonthly injected antiretroviral medication that reduces the risk of HIV infection. If you are HIV negative, you can start PrEP before exposure to HIV. When taken as prescribed, PrEP reduces your risk of HIV infection from sex by up to 99% and from injecting drugs by more than 70%.
What is PEP?
Post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) is medication that reduces your risk of HIV infection after exposure. Like PrEP, it is antiretroviral medication, but PEP is taken after exposure to HIV.
PEP is a pill or set of pills you take for 28 days in a row after a suspected exposure to HIV (such as after having sex without a condom). PEP is a time-sensitive medication regimen. You must start PEP within 72 hours (3 days) of suspected exposure.
What is TasP?
Treatment as prevention (TasP) refers to someone who has HIV taking medication to stay healthy and reduce HIV viral load. If you or your partner have HIV, TasP can help reduce the risk of transmission.
When people with HIV take antiretroviral therapy (ART) as prescribed, they can often reach undetectable status. Undetectable means the level of HIV in the blood is so low it doesn’t show up on a viral load test. People with undetectable viral loads have effectively no risk of transmitting HIV. This is known as undetectable = untransmittable (U = U). Learn more about U = U status at HIV Undetectable=Untransmittable (U=U), or Treatment as Prevention.
PrEP Navigator at Children's Hospital Los Angeles
At CHLA, we do everything we can to make it easy for you to access HIV preventive care. Thanks to California state law, people ages 12 and older do not need parental permission to access HIV preventive care. Our services are free and confidential.
We understand that getting health care on your own may be challenging. Our PrEP navigator is here to help. The navigator identifies and removes challenges to ensure you get the care you need. We help you:
- Access health care: Once we identify barriers to care, we find solutions that work for you. This includes everything from help with insurance to transportation support and more.
- Get counseling or peer support: Mental health care is an important part of our program. We offer one-on-one counseling and peer support groups to help you work through your emotions and confront stigma. Visit the HIV Patient Resources page to learn more about our support groups.
- Make empowered choices: We educate you about the different HIV prevention options so you can choose the best option for you.
- Take medication as prescribed: Biomedical HIV prevention is highly effective when taken properly. We explain your medication protocol and offer support to help you stick to it.
Benefits of the PrEP navigator include:
- Confidential support from a trauma-informed and sex-positive navigator
- Free access to PrEP, even if you don’t have insurance
- Free HIV and STI testing, with incentives to encourage regular testing
- Incentives and “swag” for attending appointments
- Transportation support to get to your appointments
- Excused absences from school for medical appointments
- A support system that provides check-in opportunities, appointment reminders and referrals to other support services, including mental health services, food programs and clothing
Please contact us for more information or to speak with a PrEP navigator.