Post Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP) is emergency treatment available to people if they have had a recent exposure to HIV.

Post = after

Exposure = a situation where HIV has a chance to get into someone’s blood stream

Prophylaxis = a treatment to stop an infection happening

The medication works by preventing HIV establishing itself in the bloodstream.

Where to get PEP:

PEP Facts:

  • PEP must be taken within 72 hours of exposure to HIV.  The sooner you take it after the exposure, the better it works.
  • PEP is not a cure for HIV.
  • PEP is a course of tablets for 28 days.  It is important that you complete the course of medication and do not miss any doses.
  • If you take PEP it doesn’t mean that you become immune to HIV.   If you are having sex while on PEP, you still need to practice safer sex.
  • If you are prescribed PEP you will have a series of blood tests and an STI screen, if available.
  • PEP is not a vaccine.  After completion, safer sex is still the best way of preventing HIV infection.

Who gets PEP?

  • Not everyone who wants PEP will get it.  Doctors at the clinic or hospital will decide, following an assessment.
  • It’s important to give the doctor clear information on the incident.  You may be asked, for example, if you know the person you had sexual contact with is HIV positive; and if so, are they are on treatment; and if the viral load is known.  You may also be asked if contact can be made with them to verify the information.
  • If you have had a sexual risk and are not prescribed PEP, you will be advised to have follow-up blood tests 6 weeks and 12 weeks after the incident.

PEP for Hepatitis B

PEP is also available for people who have had a recent exposure to Hepatitis B.  It  usually involves an injection of immunoglobulin, followed by the Hepatitis B vaccination (3 shots and a blood test over a 6month period). It is recommended that PEP for Hepatitis B should be taken within 24 hours of exposure but can also be taken later if necessary.