PEP - Post-Exposure Prophylaxis

PEP - Post-Exposure Prophylaxis

If you need to prevent HIV after a single high-risk event of potential HIV exposure (sex without a condom, needle-sharing injection drug use, or sexual assault) you can start a course of PEP. PEP must begin within 72 hours of exposure, before the virus has time to make too many copies of itself in your body. PEP consists of 2-3 antiretroviral medications and must be taken for 28 days. Your doctor will determine what treatment is right for you based on how you were exposed to HIV. You will be asked to return for follow-up appointments and additional HIV testing.

PEP is safe but may cause side effects such as nausea in some people. These side effects can be treated and are not life threatening. PEP is not 100% effective; it does not guarantee that someone exposed to HIV will not become infected with HIV.

You should be evaluated for PEP at an in-person appointment with a health care provider. If you believe you have been exposed to HIV, you can call the office during business hours for assistance getting a timely appointment. If you need PEP during a time when the office is closed, you should go to the nearest urgent care clinic or emergency room.

Because PEP is not 100% effective, you should continue to use condoms with sex partners while taking PEP and should not share injection equipment with others. This will help avoid spreading the virus to others if you become infected. If you have repeated exposures to HIV, you should consider PrEP

Learn more about PrEP

Most insurances cover PEP. Those who do not have insurance coverage may qualify for assistance.

PEP should only be used in situations right after a potential HIV exposure. PEP is not intended for long-term use. It is not a substitute for regular use of other proven HIV prevention methods, such as pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), correct and consistent condom use or use of sterile injection equipment.