What is PEP?

PEP is a course of medication you can undergo if you have been exposed to HIV within a 72 hour window in hopes to eradicate the virus and stop it from developing. PEP stands for post-exposure prophylaxis. Prophylaxis means a defense or protection.

If you feel as though you may have been exposed to HIV and you are within your 72 hour window, it is strongly recommended that you immediately visit your local sexual health clinic so they can prescribe you with the medication as soon as possible. The sooner you start the treatment, the more chance you have of minimalising the risk of contracting HIV from your sexual partner(s). Preferably within hours of exposure to maximise your chances of eliminating the virus, assuming that the virus has been already passed on to you.

PEP should not be used as a regular way of preventing HIV infection, some people may even refer to PEP as a ‘morning-after pill’ which has mislead people in to thinking that PEP is exactly the same as PrEP. If you would like to use regular HIV prevention drugs, pre-exposure, please visit our page about PrEP and we will point you in the right direction of some great, legal and genuine suppliers, either UK based or Worldwide.

If you have been exposed to HIV this does not neccesarily mean that you need to go on to a course of PEP, especially if your exposure is from a sexual partner that has an undetectable viral load. However, it is still recommended but you are within your rights to either refuse PEP or stop taking PEP.

PEP usually will come in the form of two different tablets, Truvada (which contains tenofovir and emtricitabine) and two tablets of raltegravir (Isentress). The treatment should last four weeks and adherence is extremely important in order to make sure that your PEP is fully effective so you stand your best chance of prevention.

You can either be prescribed PEP from an Accident & Emergency department or at your local sexual health clinic.

Find your nearest GUM clinic
Find your nearest A&E department

PEP Facts

– PEP is not a cure for HIV, it is deemed as a prevention drug (like PrEP but post-exposure rather than pre-exposure)
– PEP is also referred to as ’emergency HIV medication’
– PEP can be taken whilst pregnant although your medication may differ. If you’re pregnant and need to start PEP treatment it is advisable to speak to your health advisor and inform them of your condition before taking PEP
– PEP can be taken when breastfeeding to help minimalise the risk of passing the virus on to your child
– You may be refused PEP if your health advisor doesn’t deem you vulrenable to the virus depending on how you think you may have been exposed. You may also be refused PEP if you refuse to take a HIV test.
– PEP is not PrEP! Pre-exposure and post-exposure are two very different things.
– PEP is not guaranteed to work in any scenario

PEP Side Effects

When taking PEP it is entirely possible that you may not experience any side effects at all, however, this can vary from person to person and the most common side effects include:

– Headaches
– Nausea
– Diarrhea
– Fatigue

*If you experience any of these side effects do not stop taking PEP without consulting a healthcare professional first