PEP stands for Post-Exposure Prophylaxis. PEP is a course of anti-HIV drugs that may prevent acquiring HIV after a possible exposure. Check out PEP: Protecting you against HIV when you need it to discover more.
Exposed to HIV? Get PEP (Post-Exposure Prophylaxis)
When to use PEP
If you think that you may have been exposed to HIV, PEP may help prevent acquiring HIV. The sooner someone starts PEP the better, but it must be started within 72 hours (three days) after the possible HIV exposure incident.
Possible high risk exposures (events where it is possible that you could acquire HIV) may include:
- Having receptive anal sex (bottoming) without a condom when you’re not using PrEP
- Having receptive anal sex (bottoming) without a condom with someone whose HIV status you do not know
- Having receptive anal sex (bottoming) without a condom with someone who is HIV positive and does not have an undetectable viral load
- A condom breaking or slipping during sex
- Sharing injecting equipment
PEP is not a cure for HIV. However, in most cases, PEP can prevent HIV from establishing itself in the body when started within 72 hours after a possible exposure.
“The sooner someone starts PEP the better, but it must be started within 72 hours (three days) after a possible exposure to HIV.”
It’s important to know that Australian national guidelines do not recommend PEP after oral sex, or anal sex (bottoming or topping) with someone living with HIV who is known to have an undetectable viral load, and when other STIs are not present.
There is no risk of HIV transmission from a person living with HIV who is on treatment and maintains an undetectable viral load. While HIV is not always transmitted even with a detectable viral load, when someone living with HIV has an undetectable viral load this both protects their own health and prevents new HIV transmissions.
You can call the PEP phone line to talk about your risk and if you would be recommended to take PEP, as to get well as help finding a location where you can get PEP.
PEP phone line for Victoria: 1800 889 887
The PEP phone line is staffed by registered nurses who are experts in HIV, PEP and sexual health. It operates between 9.00am and 5.00pm, Monday to Friday. At other times there is a recorded message with options.
Where to get PEP
Get PEP provides detailed information on locations where you can get PEP in Victoria. You’ll find a list and a map of clinics with contact information, opening hours and recommendations to help you. In summary:
Metro access during business hours: Contact Melbourne Sexual Health Centre or one of the GP sites that specialise in gay men’s health and HIV as soon as possible.
Metro access after hours and on weekends: Go to the Alfred’s Emergency & Trauma Centre, or another emergency department as soon as possible.
Regional and rural access: Call the PEP phone line on 1800 889 887 before travelling to a site. Ask about the option of a Skype consultation.
It’s possible that some medical staff won’t know about PEP and might say it is not available. If you have trouble getting PEP from a certain location, call the PEP phone line and ask them to speak with medical staff on your behalf.
Completing PEP and transitioning to PrEP
Completing the entire course of PEP is important to improve its goal of keeping you HIV negative. Ask your healthcare professional about getting follow up HIV tests at the end of the course PEP and again at 12 weeks after completing it.
Australian guidelines suggest transitioning immediately on to PrEP at the end of your PEP course. PrEP is a sexual health strategy that uses medication to protect you against HIV. Unlike PEP, PrEP is taken before a possible exposure to HIV and is used on an ongoing basis.
Using PrEP is just one step in maintaining a sexual health strategy. This involves taking one pill every day and seeing your GP or attending a sexual health clinic every three months for a full sexual health check-up that will test for HIV as well as other STIs. Check out Introducing PrEP – the little blue pill making a big impact to discover more.