PEP is a treatment that can stop an HIV infection after the virus has entered a person’s body. It must be taken within 72 hours of exposure. If you think you might need PEP have a look at the quick reference guide. You can also find more information about PEP by continuing to read this page.
Do I need PEP?
Take this online risk assessment to find out whether you have taken a risk and whether it’s suitable for you to take PEP.
What does PEP consist of?
PEP is a combination of HIV drugs that can stop the virus from permanently entering the body. It can be used after the event if you’ve put yourself a risk of HIV transmission.
To work, PEP must be taken within 72 hours (three days), and ideally should be taken within 24 hours.
PEP is not a ‘morning after pill’ for HIV, and it’s not guaranteed to work. It’s meant as an emergency measure to be used as a last resort, such as if a condom fails during sex. Taking PEP will not protect you from other sexually transmitted infections or unwanted pregnancy.
Do I need PEP?
PEP is only given to certain people who have had significant risk of being exposed to HIV. There are clear guidelines on who should take PEP as it a longer course of medication than a simple course of antibiotics. See if you need PEP by clicking here.
Where can I get PEP?
PEP is available on the NHS for free.
The best place to get PEP is a sexual health or HIV clinic. If you need PEP over the weekend, or when sexual health clinics are closed, the best place to go is an Accident and Emergency department. PEP is not normally available from GPs, and you cannot buy it in a pharmacy.
If you live in West Kent you should attend the Rubin Clinic at Maidstone Hospital as soon as possible or got to A&E at Maidstone or Tunbridge Wells Hospital as soon as you can (link to MTW sexual health services clinic webpage). Walk in centres do not provide HIV PEP either.
What do I need to tell someone if I think I need PEP:
Tell the receptionist who books you in that you think you need HIV PEP and they will help get you seen as soon as possible by a member of staff who can make an assessment of what has happened to you.
As PEP is a powerful course of drugs you will be asked by a member of staff about what has happened to assess if you need PEP:
• the person you had sex with (and the chances that they had HIV)
• what sort of sex you had (vaginal, oral or anal)
• if the other person had HIV, what their viral load is.
If the person you had sex with is living with HIV and has had an undetectable viral load, you will not need PEP as it won’t be possible for the virus to have been transmitted.
Once a decision is made that it’s appropriate for you to have PEP, you will be asked to take an HIV test. This is to make sure you don’t already have HIV. If HIV is detected by a test, other forms of treatment will be recommended to you but you will not need to take PEP.
How do I take PEP?
• PEP must be taken exactly as instructed and for 28 days.
• Do not skip a dose or fail to complete the full month as this makes it less likely to work.
• Do not double a dose if you miss one.
• If you do miss a dose and you remember in less than 24 hours, take the missed dose as soon as you remember.
• If you miss more than 48 hours of PEP ( two consecutive doses ) it will be discontinued.
What is the PEP medication?
The medication now used for PEP is a single tablet called Truvada and two tablets of Raltegravir. Side effects from PEP are likely to be mild ones in the first few days, such as nausea, headaches or tiredness.
Let staff know if you are taking any other medication before you start PEP. Do not take recreational drugs while on PEP as there can be dangerous interactions.
Problems getting hold of PEP?
If you are still not sure what to do call the Rubin Clinic Department of Sexual Health clinic on 0300 373 0709 or you can also call THT Direct on 0808 802 1221.