PEP (post-exposure prophylaxis) means taking medicine to prevent HIV after a possible exposure.
PEP Must Be Started Within 72 Hours of Possible Exposure to HIV
Talk right away (within 72 hours) to your health care provider, an emergency room doctor, or an urgent care provider about PEP 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.
The sooner you start PEP, the better. Every hour counts. If you’re prescribed PEP, you’ll need to take it daily for 28 days.
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).
If taken within 72 hours after possible exposure, PEP is highly effective in preventing HIV. But 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.
- PEP is safe but may cause side effects like nausea in some people.
- In almost all cases, these side effects can be treated and aren’t life-threatening.