By now, most of you have likely become well acquainted with PrEP (Pre-exposure Prophylaxis). But let’s not forget about PrEP’s older, and perhaps, somewhat forgotten brother, PEP.
So, what is PEP?
PEP stands for Post-Exposure Prophylaxis, and much like PrEP is taken beforehand to prevent HIV infection, PEP can be started after a possible exposure to do the same thing. PEP (and PrEP for that matter) are not substitutes for safer sex and condom use, but in the event of a slip up or an event where you believe there could have been exposure to HIV, reach out to your medical provider ASAP to discuss.
Here are five important facts about PEP to help get you back in the game…
- PEP must be started within 72 hours from the possible exposure. The sooner the better (the goal would be to start less than 48 hours after exposure)– so give your medical provider a call as soon as you think you may have been exposed. The sooner that PEP is started, the lower the risk of infection.
- PEP is not 100 percent effective but it works very well when taken as directed, which means you will be taking two pills (one pill once a day, and one pill twice a day). It should be taken for 28 days and missing a dose(s) can affect how well it works.
- PEP is safe but like any drug, it does have a few side effects like nausea. The side effects are not life threatening and can be treated.
- PEP is indicated for unprotected receptive and/or insertive vaginal or anal sex, giving unprotected oral sex with ejaculation, oral-vaginal contact with blood exposure, needle sharing, or injury with blood exposure (needle sticks, bites, accidents). PEP is not indicated for kissing, mutual masturbation, oral-anal contact, unprotected oral sex without ejaculation, insertive penile-oral contact, oral-vaginal contact with no blood exposure. If you are unsure, do not hesitate to reach out to your medical provider to discuss.
- PEP is not the right choice for people who may be exposed to HIV frequently. In this scenario, for example, if you are in a relationship with an HIV positive partner, PrEP would be the more appropriate choice for you.
If you have additional questions about PEP or PrEP, please speak with your medical provider.