What is PEP?
Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP) is a way to prevent HIV infection after a potential HIV exposure. It involves taking HIV antiretroviral medications (ART) to reduce the risk of HIV transmission. PEP is taken daily for 28 days (4 weeks). If taken as prescribed, it can be effective in reducing the risk of HIV infection.
Is PEP for you?
PEP is given to an HIV-negative person who has had a possible recent exposure to HIV. PEP is considered an emergency treatment and should be taken as soon as possible and within 72-hours of a potential exposure.
When should PEP be taken?
The target time to take PEP is 2-4 hours after being potentially exposed to HIV in order to prevent infection. Seek immediate assistance from your primary care physician or the emergency room if you suspect a recent exposure to HIV. High-risk exposures include the following:
- Unprotected sex with a partner of unknown HIV status
- Unprotected sex with an HIV+ partner
- Sharing needles with others who are HIV+ or unknown status
- Sexual assault
- Workplace accidents (e.g. healthcare worker who suffers a needle-stick injury).
PEP is not an alternative to other prevention methods, such as condoms and clean needles because PEP does not guarantee protection against HIV infection and it does not protect against sexually transmitted infections. PEP is not recommended to those who are exposed to HIV frequently.
Does PEP have side effects?
Newer anti-HIV drugs cause fewer side effects and are better tolerated than older anti-HIV drugs. Some PEP patients can experience tiredness, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. If you are concerned about any side-effects you are experiencing, contact your doctor.
Is PEP affordable?
Yes! There are a variety of drug assistance programs for people who do not have insurance and for people who have insurance but cannot pay for associated costs such as copays.
How to get started
If you have experienced an HIV exposure, seek immediate medical attention by calling your doctor or going to the emergency room.
For non-urgent and non-emergency information, contact Sascha Bianchi at 520-626-9458.
Immediate Care Resources: