PEP stands for post-exposure prophylaxis. The word “prophylaxis” means to prevent or control the spread of an infection or disease. PEP means taking HIV medicines within 72 hours after a possible exposure to HIV to prevent becoming infected with HIV.
PEP should be used only in emergency situations. It is not meant for regular use by people who may be exposed to HIV frequently. PEP is not intended to replace regular use of other HIV prevention methods, such as consistent use of condoms during sex or pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP).
Who should consider taking PEP?
If you think you were recently exposed to HIV, contact your health care provider immediately or go to an emergency room right away.
You may be prescribed PEP if you are HIV negative or don’t know your HIV status, and in the last 72 hours you:
• Think you may have been exposed to HIV during sex
• Shared needles or drug preparation equipment (works)
• Were sexually assaulted
Your health care provider or emergency room doctor will help to decide whether PEP is right for you.
In addition, PEP may be prescribed for a health care worker following a possible exposure to HIV at work, for example, from a needle stick injury.
HOW LONG IS PEP TAKEN FOR?
If you are prescribed PEP, you will need to take the HIV medicines every day for 28 days. You will need to return to your health care provider at certain times while taking PEP and after you finish taking PEP for HIV testing and other tests.