What is Pep
PEP stands for Post Exposure Prophylaxis. It is a 4-week course of pills you can take if you have been at serious risk of getting HIV. The medication can stop you becoming infected with HIV even after it has entered your body but it isn’t a guarantee.
You can get PEP at:
• Sexual Health Clinics (9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday
• Accident & Emergency departments in Ninewells Hospital and Perth Royal Infirmary (Evenings & Weekends)
How soon after sex do I have to take PEP?
PEP has the best chance of working within 24 hours but can be given up to 72 hours (3 days) from when you think you have been at risk of getting HIV. However, you shouldn’t wait for 72 hours before contacting the clinic as the longer you wait the less effective PEP is likely to be.
Am I sure to get PEP?
The doctor will decide if you should have PEP depending on what kind of sex you had. The doctor will also want to ask you questions about who you had sex with; if they are known to have HIV or not and where they come from. It would be very helpful if the person you had sex with could be seen too and have an HIV test. This would help to clarify if you really need PEP or not. We know this can be difficult though.
PEP is usually only recommended after anal sex without a condom or if a condom bursts but may be prescribed in other situations too. You can contact organisations like THT for advice if you are not sure whether the risk was big enough to make PEP worth thinking about but if you are still unsure you should just come to the clinic to get speak to someone whose job it is to help you in these situations.
Even if you don’t get PEP for any reason you may still need to be tested for other infections.
How long would I have to take PEP for?
The course of pills lasts 4 weeks. It’s important not to miss any doses and to take the tablets at the times you are told to take them.
Does PEP have any side effects?
As with most medicines, PEP has side effects and can cause:
• Diarrhoea (common)
• Feeling sick and vomiting (common)
• Kidney and liver problems (uncommon)
Your doctor will discuss these with you prior to prescribing PEP. You may also need to have some blood tests taken during the PEP course to monitor its effects on the body.
Frequently Asked Questions
How will I know if PEP has worked?
After you have finished PEP you need to wait for 3 months to have a final HIV test which will tell you for sure if you have picked up HIV or not. While you are waiting for that result it is very important to use condoms every time you have sex.
If I take PEP does it make me immune to HIV?
No. Unsafe sex while taking PEP could let more HIV into your body, making PEP much less likely to work. If after taking PEP someone has stayed HIV negative and then has unsafe sex again, they can become infected just like any other HIV negative person.
Now there is PEP is it still important to use condoms?
It is still important to use condoms. The main reasons for this are:
• Condoms, used correctly are better at stopping HIV than PEP
• Condoms have no side effects
• Condoms are cheap (often free) and easy to get
• You can control the use of condoms
• Condoms also prevent other serious STIs like syphilis and hepatitis B and C