Why Relying on Someone Else’s PrEP Isn’t a Good Idea

It’s becoming even easier for gay and bi men to search for and find partners on PrEP. Many people talk to partners ahead of time about their PrEP use. Social networking apps, like Grindr, also allow users to find partners who use PrEP (or who use other HIV prevention strategies like treatment as prevention).

“A lot of people will list their HIV status in their profile, or their PrEP use in their profile. So it’s pretty easy—and I think pretty common—to serosort or PrEP-sort on apps,” said Kay Nilsson, health advocacy coordinator at San Francisco AIDS Foundation.

One word of warning, though, for people who rely on other people’s PrEP use as their primary HIV-prevention strategy:

“There are some potential drawbacks to this strategy, that may expose you to risk,” said Oliver Bacon, MD, MPH, an HIV clinician and PrEP providers in San Francisco. “One of the breakthroughs of PrEP is that it’s an HIV prevention tool that you have complete control over yourself. You take it, and it protects you regardless of what your partners are doing or not doing. Relying on someone else’s PrEP is not the same thing. In fact, it’s exactly the opposite.”

One such case was recently highlighted during HIV Grand Rounds at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital. Last year, a person in San Francisco contracted HIV after seeking HIV-negative partners on PrEP.

“That was his risk reduction strategy. He himself was never on PrEP,” said Susa Coffey, MD. “This was failure of prevention in a guy who not only was high risk, but knew he was high risk.”

If you’re HIV-negative and worried that you may be at risk for HIV, it’s better for you to consider using PrEP yourself than to try to find HIV-negative partners on PrEP. In San Francisco, said Bacon, just about every person who wants to access PrEP should be able to afford it because of benefit programs that reduce or eliminate the cost. San Francisco City Clinic, where Bacon sees clients, offers drop-in same-day PrEP services. San Francisco AIDS Foundation offers free PrEP services in San Francisco at Magnet, its sexual health clinic in the Castro, and at its headquarters in the mid-Market area.

Learn more about PrEP & find PrEP services

PleasePrEPme.org is a website linking people seeking PrEP services to PrEP providers across the U.S. The site includes a searchable directory (by state, zip code or street address) for users to find PrEP clinics and PrEP clinicians with hours, contact information and health insurances accepted for each listing.

San Francisco City Clinic offers free and low-cost sexual health care to people in the Bay Area regardless of immigration or insurance status. They offer same-day PrEP enrollment during drop-in hours:

Monday, Wednesday, Friday: 8 am – 3 pm Tuesday: 1 pm – 5 pm

For trans people, San Francisco City Clinic offers PrEP services by appointment Thursdays from 8 am – 11 am or during the drop-in hours.

San Francisco AIDS Foundation offers free PrEP services at Strut (470 Castro Street in San Francisco) and at their main office (1035 Market Street in San Francisco). Find more information and make an appointment online.

The CDC offers more info about PrEP and videos about this HIV prevention option.