PHARMACIST ANDREW ANSWERS YOUR MOST COMMON QUESTIONS
ASK ANDREW IN-STORE OR AT
Q: If I don’t have any symptoms and neither does my sexual partner could I still have an STI (sexually transmitted infection)?
A: Some folks don’t experience symptoms but may still be infected or pass on an infection. The only way to be sure is to get tested. One of the reasons for HIV transmission is that some who are infected do not know, aren’t treated, and can pass it on. It is important to know your status and get regular testing – ask your local health unit what testing frequency is appropriate for you. Some guidelines suggest testing every 3 months for people who are regularly sexually active outside of a monogamous relationship.
Q: What is “undetectable” and can I get HIV from sexual activity with an HIV-positive partner?
A: Undetectable is when an HIV-positive person is consistently on effective medication and regular blood tests are not able to detect the HIV virus. This means their infection is in excellent control and they can not transmit HIV to a partner through sexual intercourse. This is what U=U represents, that Undetectable = Untransmittable. This person still is HIV-positive, will need to continue to take their medication, and get regular bloodwork to ensure they remain undetectable. Not everyone on HIV medication is undetectable – their doctor will advise them of their bloodwork to know.
Q: Can I get HIV from oral sex?
A: Most references suggest it is low risk. What does low risk mean though? There are some case reports of transmission occurring, but it is generally unusual. If there is poor oral hygiene/mouth sores/open sores the risk would increase. It would also be dependent on amount of virus and sexual fluid. For more info ask your local public health unit.
Q: If I had a urine test was I fully tested for chlamydia and gonorrhea?
A: A urine test will not show if there is an infection in the throat or rectum (there are swabs for this). It’s always best to advise whoever is testing you about your sexual activity. Otherwise important tests might not be ordered. It also may impact the choice of antibiotics given as there are some types of infections more resistant within the LGBTQ+ community.
Q: If I want to know someone’s status can I ask them if they’re “clean”?
A: There is a fair bit of stigma when it comes to STIs. Asking someone if they are "clean" can imply a person living with HIV is unclean or dirty – which isn’t the case at all. It’s best to simply ask if someone has any STIs or when they've been tested and their status. Stopping stigma starts with you!
Q: What is the difference between “PrEP” and “PEP”?
A: PrEP is a medication HIV-negative people take regularly to prevent acquiring HIV before a risk exposure. It is a proactive medication regimen. This differs from PEP which is a reactive medication regimen. This means that someone takes PEP after they have had a risk exposure. So - say you are with someone and forgot to use a condom or later found out they may be untreated and HIV-positive. A person can take PEP (which is a 28 day medication regimen) with 72 hours to reduce their risk of acquiring HIV. PEP works well but the precise effectiveness is not well documented. What studies do know is that the earlier a person begins PEP after their risk exposure the greater the effectiveness. If you or anyone you know ever needs PEP they should go to the emergency room for a script ASAP. Our pharmacies always have it in-stock, offer free delivery, and offer after-hours emergency PEP access (until midnight). If we are closed press “2” when the message comes on to be connected to our team. Learn more about PrEP here!
Q: What do “PrEP” or “Treatment As Prevention” mean on apps?
A: PrEP is a medication HIV-negative people take regularly to prevent acquiring HIV. Treatment as Prevention is when an HIV-positive person is taking their medication regularly to help control the infection and reduce the ability to transmit it. A person would not have a profile status of being both on “PrEP” and “Treatment as Prevention”. Our pharmacies always have PrEP in-stock, carry HIV medication, and offer free delivery across Ontario for those medications.
Q: If I go on PrEP am I protected against all STIs?
A: PrEP only has effectiveness against HIV and needs to be taken exactly as prescribed. Missing pills will reduce the effectiveness of PrEP. The medication also does not protect against other STIs (eg. syphilis, herpes). It is important to still consider your partner’s STI history and condoms. We recommend considering getting vaccinations against Hepatitis A and B, as well as HPV. PrEP is 92-99% effective depending on the study – higher when taking exactly as prescribed every day. Learn more about PrEP here!
Why Our Pharmacies?
We are highly knowledgeable on PEP and PrEP. Our pharmacists take the time to provide thorough detailed counselling that you may not receive elsewhere for this specific medication. We are also an available resource for your doctor.
We are a designated Safer Space and the team is respectful and understanding of the LGBTQ+ population
We always carry PrEP and PEP at the pharmacy
We offer after hours access to PEP and free delivery of PrEP and PEP across Ontario