The Morning After

Even if you’ve been exposed to HIV, you may still be able to prevent an infection.

By starting PEP (Post-Exposure Prophylaxis) within 72 hours of exposure, you can reduce your chance of becoming HIV-positive.

What Is Post-Exposure Prophylaxis?

Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP) involves taking anti-HIV medications as soon as possible after a potential exposure to the virus to reduce the chance of becoming HIV-positive. These medications keep HIV from making copies of itself and spreading through your body.

To be effective, PEP must begin within 72 hours of exposure, before the virus has time to make too many copies of itself in your body. PEP consists of 2-3 antiretroviral medications and should be taken for 28 days. The provider will determine what treatment is right for you based on how you were exposed to HIV.

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% effective; it does not guarantee that someone exposed to HIV will not become infected with HIV. It is still the best option available following an exposure to HIV.

Who Needs PEP?

PEP can be used to treat people who may have been exposed to HIV during a single event (e.g., during an episode of unprotected sex, needle-sharing injection drug use, or sexual assault).

PEP should only be used in uncommon situations right after a potential HIV exposure. It is not a substitute for other proven HIV prevention methods, such as correct and consistent condom use or use of sterile injection equipment.

Because PEP is not 100% effective, you should continue to use condoms with sex partners while taking PEP and should not use injection equipment that has been used by others. This will help avoid spreading the virus to others if you become infected.

When Should I Take PEP If I've Been Exposed?
To be effective, PEP must begin as soon as possible, but always within 72 hours of exposure. Your health care provider will consider whether PEP is right for you based on how you might have been exposed and whether you know if the person whose fluids you were exposed to might be HIV-positive. You will be asked to return for more HIV testing at 4 to 6 weeks, 3 months, and 6 months after the potential exposure to HIV.
How Do I Get PEP?

The Center offers PEP. To learn more, call us at 323.860.5855 (option 4), Monday through Friday 11 a.m. – 6 p.m.

Note: If you believe you were exposed on Friday night or on Saturday, you should consider going to the emergency room of a hospital to access PEP.

Want More Information?
Check out the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s U.S. Public Health Service Guidelines for the Management of Nonoccupational Post-exposure Prophylaxis (nPEP) Guidelines.