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Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP)

 
 

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What is Post - Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP)?

PEP is a course of anti-HIV medication. You must start the treatment as soon as possible after you’ve been exposed to HIV, ideally within a few hours. The medicines must be taken every day for four weeks.

PEP is unlikely to work if it’s started after 72 hours (three days) and it won’t usually be prescribed after this time.

PEP makes infection with HIV less likely. However, it’s not a cure for HIV and it doesn’t work in all cases. Some strains of HIV aren't affected by the medicines. Also, the treatment may not work if you:
  • Take the medicines incorrectly
  • Don't start taking the medicines soon enough

What are the side effects of PEP?
  • prolonged headaches
  • diarrhoea
  • nausea
  • vomiting

Where can I get PEP from?

PEP is only available on prescription. You may be able to get PEP from:
  • GUM clinic (use the location finder)
  • A&E department of a hospital
However, PEP may not be available in all areas of England. GPs cannot usually prescribe PEP.


What else do I need to know?
When you ask to have PEP, you’ll be asked some questions, such as:
  • Who you had sex with, to assess your risk of exposure to HIV
  • Whether you had oral, vaginal or anal sex


Will I have to have an HIV test to get PEP?

You’ll be asked to take an HIV test before starting PEP treatment, to check whether you already have HIV. If you don’t agree to an HIV test, you won't be given PEP.

You’ll also need an HIV test after the treatment to check that it’s been successful.

Safe sex
HIV can’t be cured. Don't rely on PEP to prevent HIV because it doesn’t always work.
Using a condom correctly is the best way to prevent the spread of sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including HIV.

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