PEP (Post-Exposure Prophylaxis) is a 28-day course of HIV treatment that can be taken if you think you might have been exposed to HIV. To be most effective, PEP should be started a few hours after an HIV-risk event, such as the condom breaking during sex with a guy who is living with HIV.
There are a few things you need to know about PEP:
- If PEP isn’t started within 72 hours after you’ve possibly been exposed to HIV, it isn’t likely to work.
- There have been cases where PEP hasn’t worked, even when it has been taken within the recommended time frame.
- PEP doesn’t protect you from other STIs such as gonorrhoea and chlamydia.
- There is still uncertainty as to how effective PEP is. Factors such as the amount of time between exposure to HIV and taking PEP, and the viral load of the guy you had sex with, appear to influence its effectiveness.
- PEP is a last resort in the case of an HIV-risk event – you cannot rely on PEP to keep you safe from HIV and other STIs in the way that condoms and other safe practices do.
SHOULD I GET PEP?
While PEP isn’t foolproof, it is a back-stop that you should consider in the case of an HIV-risk event, such as a condom breaking during sex with a guy living with HIV.
To access PEP, go to your nearest sexual health centre or the emergency department of your local hospital. PEP is free under certain circumstances, for example, if you know that the guy you had sex with is living with HIV. If you aren’t sure about his status, then you may have to pay for the medication. If you have any questions about PEP, get in touch with the New Zealand AIDS Foundation (NZAF).