Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP)

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What Is Post-Exposure Prophylaxis?

PEP involves taking anti-HIV drugs as soon as possible after you may have been exposed to HIV to try to reduce the chance of becoming HIV positive

For a variety of reasons, people without HIV may engage in unprotected intercourse with a partner they know has HIV or who may have. Such situations include sexual assault, condom failure, the heat of the moment, and finding out a partner is HIV positive after sex.

In such circumstances people may benefit from post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP). In order to take PEP people need to know about it, to appreciate the costs and benefits of taking it, and to be able to access it and take it correctly.

To be effective, PEP must begin within 72 hours of exposure, before the virus has time to rapidly replicate in your body. PEP consists of 2-3 antiretroviral medications and should be taken for 28 days.

Your doctor will determine what treatment is right for you based on how you were exposed to HIV. The medications have serious side effects that can make it difficult to finish the program.

PEP is not 100% effective; it does not guarantee that someone exposed to HIV will not become infected with HIV

PEP can also be used to treat people who may have been exposed to HIV by accident (e.g., condom breakage) or sexual assault.