Post-exposure prophylaxis or PEP is a course to treatment for people who have been (or potentially been) exposed to HIV
PEP is a 4-week course of medication that prevents someone from becoming HIV positive
Who should take PEP?
If you think you have been exposed to HIV, PEP is for you.
Some common reasons people need PEP include:
- Having sex without a condom with someone who has or might have HIV
- Having sex with someone who has or might have HIV and the condom breaks/falls off
- Sharing syringes and needles with someone who has or may have HIV
When is PEP taken?
PEP needs to be started as soon as possible.
It’s best that PEP is taken within a few hours of the risk event happening but can be started up to 72 hours after.
The later you start PEP the less effective it is likely to be. That is because HIV has more time in the body to replicate and spread. The sooner you start the better PEP can combat that.
What does PEP do?
PEP uses antiretroviral medication (the drugs that are used to treat HIV) to stop HIV from being able to replicate in the body.
For HIV to live inside the body it needs to be able to burrow into certain cells so it can reproduce and spread. PEP blocks off the cells it needs to survive. This means if HIV is already inside the body it can prevent it from spreading and enable the originally infected cells to die off naturally.
This is the same mechanism as PrEP. However it is less effect due to the act that HIV is already inside the body and PEP has to work hard to deal with it.
Where can I get PEP?
PEP is available from emergency departments in many public hospitals, sexual health clinics and doctors that can prescribe HIV medications.
You can find a list of locations at the Get Pep website.
We recommend calling PEP Line on 1300 767 161.
PEP Line is 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. They can discuss your risk and if you would be recommended to take PEP, and help you find a location where you can get PEP.