Treatment that may prevent HIV infection called PEP

PEP stands for Post Exposure Prophylaxis.
It is a treatment that may prevent HIV infection after the virus has entered the body.

If you have had unprotected anal or vaginal sex, or a condom accident with someone who has (or might have) HIV, then you could take PEP to reduce the chance of getting HIV.  It is a four week course of HIV medicines.

You can get advice about whether or not you may need PEP from the Open Doors Team, from Sexual Health Clinics or from Accident & Emergency Departments (open 24 hours a day). You can also phone NHS 111.

PEP works best the sooner it is taken after unprotected sex - and must be started within 72 hours.

If you have it prescribed you will be given a starter pack which lasts a few days and will be invited back to talk with medical staff about how you are, before being given more tablets. On your first visit you will have a blood test taken for HIV (to make sure you are not already HIV positive).  You will also need to have a blood test to check how your liver and kidneys are working.  PEP involves taking tablets every day for 28 days. PEP may not work if you miss tablets.

Where can I get it from?

PEP is available from our clinics some Sexual Health Clinics and Accident & Emergency Departments. 
You can also phone NHS 111 to find out where it is available near you.

Are there any side effects if I take PEP?

Yes, the most common side effects include:

  • headaches
  • tiredness
  • nausea
  • stomach upsets or diarrhoea

You will also be given tablets to stop nausea and diarrhoea, which you can take as required.