Be in the know regarding sexual health - including what you can do after engaging in risky sex.
What is PEP?
PEP stands for Post-Exposure Prophylaxis. PEP is a medicine taken by people who may have been exposed to HIV during a single event (like unprotected sex or needle-sharing) to reduce the chances of becoming HIV positive. PEP consists of 2-3 antiretroviral medications that can help stop HIV from spreading in your body. To be effective, PEP must be taken as soon as possible, but no more than 72 hours (3 days) after being exposed to HIV. In addition, the pills must be taken daily for 28 days.
It is important to know that PEP is not 100% effective – it does not guarantee that someone exposed to HIV will not become infected with the disease. PEP is different than PrEP. If you are continually exposed to HIV (by engaging in risky sex behaviors or injection drug use), then you should talk to your doctor about takingPrEP.
Is PEP right for me?
PEP can be taken by anyone who may have been exposed to HIV during a single event. Sometimes healthcare workers take PEP after being exposed to blood or body fluids that may contain HIV. It can also be taken by individuals after having unprotected sex, sharing a needle for injection drug use, or following a sexual assault.
If you think you have been exposed to HIV, visit your health care provider immediately to determine if PEP is right for you.
Keep in mind that PEP is not a substitute for regular, proven HIV prevention methods such as using PrEP (an HIV prevention pill), condoms, or sterile injection needles.
When should I take PEP?
You should start taking PEP as soon as possible after the HIV exposure event. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), research shows that PEP has little to no effect in preventing HIV if it is taken more than 72 hours (3 days) after exposure .
People who take PEP must commit to taking the pills (usually 2-3) every day for 28 days. Once you finish the treatment, your doctor will ask you to take several HIV tests (typically at 4-6 weeks, 3 months, and 6 months) to confirm your status. Because PEP is not 100% effective, you should keep using condoms with sex partners and avoid sharing needles with others.
Where can I get PEP?
If you think you were exposed to HIV, talk to your health care provider right away. You can also get PEP at emergency rooms, urgent care clinics, or your local HIV clinic.
Is there help to pay for PEP?
There are different options to help pay for PEP based on the HIV exposure event. If you are a healthcare worker, your insurance should usually pay for PEP. If you were a victim of sexual assault, you may qualify for assistance through the Office for Victims of Crime (see the contact information for each state). If you do not have insurance, talk with your health care provider about applying for patient assistance programs.
Where can I get more information?
CDC PEP Basics
AIDS.gov PEP Info