What is nPEP?

PEP stands for post-exposure prophylaxis. It means taking antiretroviral medicines (ART) after being potentially exposed to HIV to prevent becoming infected. PEP must be started within 72 hours after a recent possible exposure to HIV, but the sooner you start PEP, the better. Every hour counts. If you’re prescribed PEP, you’ll need to take it once or twice daily for 28 days. PEP is effective in preventing HIV when administered correctly, but not 100%.

PEP (post-exposure prophylaxis)

PEP (post-exposure prophylaxis)

PEP (post-exposure prophylaxis) means taking antiretroviral medicines (ART) after being potentially exposed to HIV to prevent becoming infected. PEP should be used only in emergency situations and must be started within 72 hours after a recent possible exposure to HIV. If you think you’ve recently been exposed to HIV during sex or through sharing needles and works to prepare drugs or if you’ve been sexually assaulted, talk to your health care provider or an emergency room doctor about PEP right away.

Is PEP right for me?

If you’re HIV-negative or don’t know your HIV status, and in the last 72 hours you

1. Think you may have been exposed to HIV during sex (for example, if the condom broke),

2. Shared needles and works to prepare drugs (for example, cotton, cookers, water), or

3. Were sexually assaulted, talk to your health care provider or an emergency room doctor about PEP right away.

PEP should be used only in emergency situations and must be started within 72 hours after a recent possible exposure to HIV. It is not a substitute for regular use of other proven HIV prevention methods, such as pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), which means taking HIV medicines daily to lower your chance of getting infected; using condoms the right way every time you have sex; and using only your own new, sterile needles and works every time you inject.

PEP is effective, but not 100%, so you should continue to use condoms with sex partners and safe injection practices while taking PEP. These strategies can protect you from being exposed to HIV again and reduce the chances of transmitting HIV to others if you do become infected while you’re on PEP.

nPEP

  • I’m a health care worker, and I think I’ve been exposed to HIV at work. Should I take PEP?

    PEP should be considered if you’ve had a recent possible exposure to HIV at work. Report your exposure to your supervisor, and seek medical attention immediately.

    Occupational transmission of HIV to health care workers is extremely rare, and the proper use of safety devices and barriers can help minimize the risk of exposure while caring for patients with HIV.

    A health care worker who has a possible exposure should see a doctor or visit an emergency room immediately. PEP must be started within 72 hours after a recent possible exposure to HIV. The sooner, the better; every hour counts.

  • When should I take PEP?

    PEP must be started within 72 hours after a possible exposure. The sooner you start PEP, the better; every hour counts.

    Starting PEP as soon as possible after a potential HIV exposure is important. Research has shown that PEP has little or no effect in preventing HIV infection if it is started later than 72 hours after HIV exposure.

    If you’re prescribed PEP, you’ll need to take it once or twice daily for 28 days.

  • If I start PrEP, can I stop?

    With guidance from a health care provider, people can safely start and stop taking PrEP at different times in their lives. Anytime you start PrEP, it is important to remember that it generally takes at least seven days of daily use to reach effectiveness. It is important to consult a health care provider before starting or ending treatment to ensure the effectiveness of PrEP and confirm the appropriate protocol.

  • Where can I get PrEP and how much does it cost?

    PrEP is only available with a prescription from a health care provider. Many private insurance plans cover PrEP, as does Medicaid, the state-run health program for lower-income persons. If you do not have insurance, ask your health care provider about pharmaceutical patient assistance programs which may be able to offset the cost of the medication.

  • What is PEP?

    PEP, short for post-exposure prophylaxis, is emergency protection taken after possible exposure to HIV. It is available only with a doctor’s prescription. Treatment must begin within 72 hours of exposure and be taken every day thereafter for 28 days. If you think you were exposed to HIV, you should see a health care provider immediately to request PEP.

  • What is the difference between PEP and PrEP?

    Both PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) and PEP (post-exposure prophylaxis) are medications for people who do not have HIV to help protect against HIV. One big difference is that PrEP is taken before you are potentially exposed to HIV, and PEP is an emergency medication taken as soon as possible after you may have been exposed to HIV. PEP is intended as an emergency response, not as an ongoing protective measure. PrEP is intended for ongoing use.

    Both PrEP and PEP are only available by prescription. Talk with a health care provider about whether PrEP or PEP is an option for you and to get guidance on use and effectiveness.

  • Does PEP have any side effects?

    PEP is safe but may cause side effects like nausea in some people. These side effects can be treated and aren’t life-threatening.

  • Where can I get PEP?

    Your health care provider or an emergency room doctor can prescribe PEP. Talk to them right away if you think you’ve recently been exposed to HIV.

  • How can I pay for PEP?

    If you’re prescribed PEP for another reason and you cannot get insurance coverage (Medicaid, Medicare, private, or employer-based), your health care provider can apply for free PEP medicines through the medication assistance programs run by the manufacturers. Online applications can be faxed to the company, or some companies have special phone lines. These can be handled urgently in many cases to avoid a delay in getting medicine.

    If you’re a health care worker who was exposed to HIV on the job, your workplace health insurance or workers’ compensation will usually pay for PEP.

  • Can I take a round of PEP every time I have unprotected sex?

    PEP should be used only in emergency situations.

    PEP is not the right choice for people who may be exposed to HIV frequently—for example, if you often have sex without a condom with a partner who is HIV-positive. Because PEP is given after a potential exposure to HIV, more drugs and higher doses are needed to block infection than with PrEP, or pre-exposure prophylaxis. PrEP is when people at high risk for HIV take HIV medicines (sold under the brand name Truvada) daily to lower their chances of getting HIV. If you are at ongoing risk for HIV, speak to your doctor about PrEP.

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