Explaining PEP and Why It Matters

You had a fun, casual hook-up over the weekend. You met at a Halloween party, drank just a bit too much, and ended up bringing him back to your place.

The next morning you wake up to find him gone. You shrug it off.

Reaching over to your phone, you see a text from him. You smile; maybe he’ll want to grab coffee? Or a drink? From what you remember he was pretty cute, Dracula makeup and all.

You unlock your phone and read the text:

“Hey. Last night was great. There’s something I forgot to mention though…”

You can feel your heart pounding as you read the last few lines.

“Idk if it’s for sure, but the other day I was tested for HIV and they told me I maybe have it. I should have said something to you. But we were having a good time. I’m sorry.”

Your heart is about to leap out of your chest. You lunge towards the garbage can, hoping to find a used condom. But there’s nothing. You try to think back. Did we talk about condoms? Did he put one on? You were so drunk. Everything is a blur.

You grab your phone again, ignoring his message and going to Google instead.

“I was exposed to HIV. What should I do?”

PEP Can Stop Transmission After HIV Exposure

Many don’t know that there’s still time to stop HIV transmission after possible exposure. PEP, also known as Post-Exposure Prophylaxis, is a combination of medications taken within 72 hours of a possible exposure. It should be used in emergency situations only, even if the person taking it is unsure the exposure is legitimate.

When Should PEP Be Started?

Starting PEP is very time sensitive. The sooner it’s started within that 72-hour window, the better.

Who Should Take PEP?

In the case of our imaginary friend who hooked up with a guy who might be HIV positive, they should start PEP ASAP.

In general, anyone who suspects they’ve been exposed to HIV within the last 72 hours should take PEP. Some scenarios that would apply include:

  • You had unprotected sex or the condom broke with an individual who possibly has HIV
  • You were a victim of sexual assault
  • You shared needles or works with someone who may have HIV

How Long and How Often Is PEP Taken?

In most cases, PEP is taken 1-2 daily for 4-weeks or 28 days. It’s critical to stick with this schedule for PEP to stop HIV transmission. If dosages are missed, it’s possible the medication will not work.

Are There Side Effects?

Possible side effects are short term and include nauseous and fatigue. Be sure to speak with your provider if additional side effects occur.

Do Those on PrEP Need to Take PEP If Exposure Occurs?

Do Those on PrEP Need to Take PEP If Exposure Occurs?

PrEP, also known as Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis, is taken by those who are at a higher risk of getting HIV. When taken daily, it’s up to 99 percent effective in stopping HIV transmission from sex.

If PrEP is taken daily, PEP should not be necessary when exposure occurs. You can learn more about PrEP here.

I’ve Taken PEP for 28 Days. What Now?

Once you’re done with the medication, you’ll come in to The Project for an HIV test. Depending on your results, you and your care provider will discuss how to proceed.

Is PEP Expensive?

We typically provide PEP to our clients at minimal to no cost to them.

How Do I Get on PEP?

The Project is a PEP clinic, meaning we offer immediate access to the medication during our normal business hours. If you think you need PEP, either walk-in for an appointment or schedule online. Learn more at tpqc.org/PEP.

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