PEP for HIV
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 is free and is available in most STI/GUM clinics and Hospital Emergency departments. Click here to view or download a list of locations where PEP is available in Ireland.
- Remember, PEP works better when it is taken to the nearest hour of the incident happening, and it must be within 72 hours. Attend your nearest clinic or Hospital Accident and Emergency. Do not wait until the clinic you prefer is open.
- 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 6–month 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.