What is PEP for HIV?

Post Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP) is an emergency course of medication that aims to prevent HIV acquisition following a recent sexual, or needle-stick, exposure to HIV.

How does PEP work?

PEP is a 28 day course of anti-HIV medication that can prevent HIV establishing itself in a person’s bloodstream.  It must be taken within 72 hours (3 days) of the possible exposure to HIV.

Where can I get PEP?

PEP is available in many Sexual Health/STI clinics. If it is not possible to get PEP from your STI clinic within 72 hours (for example, if the clinic is closed in the evenings or at weekends), PEP can be accessed in a number of Hospital Emergency Departments.

Find your nearest clinic or hospital where PEP is available in Ireland.

Do I have to pay for PEP?

PEP is FREE of charge in Ireland.

However, there is a charge for Hospital Emergency Department services in Ireland and people who attend a Hospital Emergency Department for PEP, without a referral letter from a GP, will be charged for that attendance. For EU residents this cost is currently €100. The cost of attendance for non-EU residents is more. Medical card holders and some other groups are exempt from this charge. Attendance for PEP assessment is not exempt from this charge.

Can anyone get PEP?

  • Not everyone who wants PEP will get it.  You will be assessed first, and following an assessment doctors at the clinic or hospital will decide if you should get PEP.
  • 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 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 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 and/or injecting drugs while taking PEP, using condoms for sex and safer injecting practices are still advised.
  • If you are prescribed PEP you will have a series of blood tests and an STI screen, if available.
  • When you finish the course of PEP, you will be tested for HIV. The clinic will advise you when to get tested.