PEP is HIV treatment for an emergency situation. We want to share this resource with you so you have ALL the resources available to you after a potential exposure, but especially if you’ve dealt with sexual assault. During such a sensitive time, we want to be sure you have access to whatever you need.
Below we’ve listed the basics of PEP. We recommend printing this page and bringing it with you if you go to the Emergency Room or a clinic for help.
EVERYTHING YOU WANTED TO KNOW ABOUT PEP
WHAT IS PEP?
If you’ve been exposed to HIV without any form of protection, take a deep breath. There’s a medicine called PEP — or post-exposure prophylaxis — that can lower your chances of becoming infected.
HOW DO I TAKE PEP?
Once your doctor prescribes PEP, you must start it within 72 hours (which is three days) after you were exposed to HIV. And the sooner you start PEP, the better. Take PEP once or twice daily for 28 days.
WHO SHOULD TAKE PEP?
PEP is recommended for people who have been exposed to HIV during sex, shared needles, are health care workers who were exposed, or were sexually assaulted. It’s only recommended for people who are HIV negative or don’t know their status, not for people who are currently living with HIV.
If you think PEP is the right option for you, go to your doctor, a clinic, a local health department or, in after-hour cases, an emergency room. It may be helpful to bring a print-out of this page or HIV.gov’s page to guide your visit. For more information and locations, visit our Testing Map. And to learn more about protecting yourself from HIV in general, check out the CDC’s HIV Risk Reduction Tool.
And after an emergency situation like this, some people find that they need a little extra help with mental health. You can ask your doctor or visit one of the clinics on our testing map to ask about counseling options that can help you work through it.
ARE THERE ANY SIDE EFFECTS TO PEP?
PEP may cause side effects like nausea in some people. But it can be treated and isn’t life-threatening. Just kind of uncomfortable.
HOW WELL DOES PEP WORK?
Scientists have proven that PEP is very effective at protecting against HIV after someone has been exposed. If you take it within 72 hours of exposure and take your medicine every day for 28 days, PEP will most likely prevent you from catching HIV.
CAN I TAKE PEP MORE THAN ONCE?
Absolutely! The only negative of taking PEP more than once is dealing with any side effects more than once. However, if you find that you’re regularly exposed to HIV, then PEP might not be the best way for you to ensure you’re a healthy sexual being. Consider talking to your doctor about PrEP, which is pre-exposure prophylaxis. It’s a daily pill that’s 90% effective at protecting against HIV from sex and 70% effective at protecting against HIV from injection drug use.
HOW CAN I GET PEP?
Your health care provider, an emergency room doctor, and the DC Health and Wellness Center can prescribe PEP.
HOW DO I PAY FOR PEP?
Most insurances cover PEP. If you have a prescription for PEP, you’ll only be responsible for the co-pay. If you don’t have insurance, let your doctor know. Many PEP manufacturers offer financial assistance, and doctors can quickly request PEP for free on your behalf. If you’ve been prescribed PEP after a sexual assault, you may be eligible for reimbursement through DC’s Crime Victim’s Compensation Program.
WHEN SHOULD I GET TESTED AFTER PEP?
After taking PEP, doctors normally recommend getting tested three months and six months following your HIV exposure.