For people who have potentially been exposed to HIV in the previous 72 hours, we offer full post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) services with the month-long medication treatment provided for free.
Consider PEP if:
- You were sexually assaulted
- You were stuck by a needle
- You shared injection equipment with someone of an unknown HIV status
- You had a condom break
- You had anal sex without a condom with a person of unknown HIV status and you’re not on PrEP
- You had anal sex without a condom with someone with a detectable HIV viral load and you’re not on PrEP. (Note: People with undetectable viral loads do not transmit HIV.)
- You had anal sex without a condom with a person of unknown HIV status and though you are on PrEP, you recently have not been taking doses as recommended.
Even though PEP is intended to be taken within 72 hours of a potential exposure, the sooner you start taking PEP, the better. PEP is effective in preventing HIV when taken correctly, but not 100 percent.
- Have you been sexually assaulted?
- Did you have sex without a condom with someone whose HIV status you don’t know?
- Did you have sex without a condom with someone who is living with HIV and not taking HIV medications?
- Did the condom break during sex?
- Have you shared needles or works to prepare drugs (cookers, cotton, water) with someone?
If your answer to any of these is yes, talk to your healthcare provider or go to an emergency room right away. PEP works best if you take it within 72 hours of exposure to HIV.
PEP is for HIV-negative people who may have been exposed to HIV during a single event.
PEP is not a substitute for other effective HIV prevention methods, such as correct and consistent condom use, PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) or use of sterile injection equipment.
You have to start PEP within 72 hours of exposure for PEP to work. Seek PEP right away if you think you’ve been exposed to HIV. Your healthcare provider will determine what treatment is right for you based on how you may have been exposed to HIV.
PEP consists of 2 to 3 antiretroviral medications that are taken for 28 days. PEP is safe but may cause side effects like nausea in some people. These side effects can be treated and are not life threatening. PEP is not 100 percent effective; it does not guarantee that someone exposed to HIV will not become infected with HIV.
- After you start PEP, make sure you take your meds. PEP does not work if you do not take the medications.
- Continue to use condoms with sex partners while taking PEP and do not use injection equipment that has been used by others. This will help avoid transmitting HIV to others if PEP does not work.
- Return to your healthcare provider for more HIV testing in about one month, three months, and six months after the potential exposure to HIV. Your healthcare provider will give you a follow-up schedule.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers two resources if you want to read more.
There are two types of programs that can help you pay for PEP: medication assistance programs and co-pay programs. Medication assistance programs provide free medications to people without health insurance or prescription drug coverage. Co-pay programs help people pay for co-pays, deductibles and other out-of-pocket costs.
Find a list of assistance and co-pay programs from the Fair Pricing Coalition.