Dear Lucy: I’m a new graduate student at MIT, and I’m gay. While I do have a boyfriend, I also have sex with other men actively. I want to go through STI testing, and I am also thinking of taking PrEP medicines to prevent HIV infection.
Are the STI tests and PrEP covered by student insurance? And which doctor should I see for the testing and prescription?—So Many Questions
Dear Questions: Lucy applauds you for taking action to keep yourself and your sexual partners healthy. You have, indeed, asked several questions, which Lucy will answer one at a time.
First, testing for STIs — sexually transmitted infections — is available at MIT Medical for all MIT students and is fully covered by the MIT Student Medical Plan, which is included with tuition. To make an appointment, call 617-253-4481. MIT also holds walks-in STI clinics three or four times during the school year, a collaboration between MIT Medical, VPR, MedLinks & PLEASURE@MIT. Dates for upcoming clinics are posted on the PLEASURE@MIT events calendar. Whether you have the testing done at MIT Medical or at one of the walk-in clinics, your results will be available in approximately four days.
You also mentioned that you are considering PrEP, pre-exposure prophylaxis, to prevent HIV infection. PrEP is a way for people who are at substantial risk of contracting HIV to prevent infection by taking a daily pill that contains two medicines (tenofovir and emtricitabine) that are used to treat HIV. These medicines have been shown to prevent infection after HIV exposure. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), PrEP has been shown to reduce infection risk by up to 92 percent in people taking the drug consistently. Anyone using PrEP must also commit to seeing a healthcare provider for frequent follow-ups.
Your coverage for this prescription medication will depend on the comprehensive insurance plan you have in addition to the basic insurance that is included with MIT tuition. The Student Extended Insurance Plan covers prescriptions from MIT Medical clinicians, and, with this plan, you will be able to fill those prescriptions at the MIT Pharmacy, which is on the first floor of MIT Medical (Building E23). Your copay for prescriptions will depend on the type of medication. If you waived Extended Plan coverage, your outside insurance plan will determine your prescription coverage.
Finally, to answer your question about getting a prescription, you should make an appointment with a clinician at MIT Medical to discuss PrEP and any other health-related questions you might have. Lucy suggests that you start by choosing a primary care provider (PCP). Your PCP will be the person you contact for any healthcare need that arises during your time at MIT. You can see available PCPs at medical.mit.edu/choose; the MIT Medical website also provides a list of providers with a special interest in LGBTQ health.
Lucy welcomes you to MIT and hopes your time here is enjoyable, productive, and healthy. —Lucy