What is PEP?
PEP (post-exposure prophylaxis) is a treatment combination of HIV medication that can prevent HIV after a possible exposure. It must be taken as soon as possible after exposure but within 72 hours (three days).
PEP is not a ‘morning after pill’ for HIV. It’s meant as an emergency measure to be used as a last resort, such as if a condom fails during sex. Taking PEP will not protect you from other sexually transmitted infections or unplanned pregnancy.
Who can take PEP?
Any person who is not living with HIV and if you think you’ve recently been exposed to HIV:
- during sex (for example, if the condom broke),
- through sharing needles, syringes, or other equipment to inject drugs (for example, cookers), or
- if you’ve been sexually assaulted
How do I take PEP?
Talk right away (within 72 hours) to your health care provider, an emergency room doctor, or an urgent care provider about PEP. PEP is a treatment that should be taken every day to ensure effectiveness.
PEP must be taken exactly as instructed and for 28 days.
- Do not skip a dose or fail to complete the full month as this makes it less likely to work.
- Do not double a dose if you miss one.
- If you do miss a dose and you remember in less than 24 hours, take the next one as soon as you remember.
- If you miss more than 48 hours of PEP it will be discontinued.
How Effective is PEP?
If taken within 72 hours after possible exposure, PEP is highly effective in preventing HIV, although it won’t prevent future HIV infections like PrEP. To be safe, you should take other actions to protect your partners while you are taking PEP. This includes always using condoms with sexual partners and not sharing needles, syringes, or other equipment to inject drugs. This helps protect you from being exposed to HIV again.
Why should I take PEP?
PEP is for Emergency Situations
- PEP is given after a possible exposure to HIV.
- PEP is not a substitute for regular use of other HIV prevention.
- PEP is not the right choice for people who may be exposed to HIV frequently.
- If you are at ongoing risk for HIV, such as through repeated exposures to HIV, talk to your health care provider about PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis).