PEP: Post Exposure Prophylaxis
An emergency measure for people who may have been at risk of contracting HIV.

Key points
You will need to take an HIV test.
PEP involves taking a 28-day course of anti-HIV drugs, as soon as possible after exposure to HIV.
Doctors in Emergency Hospital Areas will assess your risk of HIV infection before prescribing PEP.

Post-exposure prophylaxis, or PEP, is a method of preventing HIV infection after an accidental risk. It involves using a four-week course of the drugs. The same ones used to treat HIV. It must be taken very soon after a person may have been exposed to the virus.

It is an emergency measure, rather than one to be used as a regular method of preventing HIV transmission. (See page on PrEP for prevention medication).

PEP has been used for many years for healthcare workers who have had possible exposure to HIV; for example, after accidentally pricking themselves with needles previously used on people who were known to have HIV or considered at high risk of having HIV.

PEP is not a ‘cure’ for HIV. PEP may prevent HIV from entering cells in the body and so stop someone from getting HIV. PEP isn’t 100% effective. However, there have been very few reports of HIV infection after the use of PEP.

When to take PEP
To have the best chance of it being effective, you need to start taking PEP as soon as possible after the possible exposure to HIV.

It is best to start PEP within 24 hours, but certainly within 72 hours. After this time, it is not suitable to be used as protection.

When is PEP recommended?
Receptive anal sex: PEP is recommended if you have had receptive anal sex (when you are the ‘bottom’) with someone who is known to be HIV positive The exception to this is if the person you had sex with is known to be on HIV treatment and to have an undetectable viral load.

Insertive anal sex: PEP is recommended if you have had insertive anal sex (when you are the ‘top’) with someone who is known to be HIV positive, unless they have an undetectable viral load.

Vaginal sex: PEP is recommended for women who have had vaginal sex with a man who is known to be HIV positive, unless he has an undetectable viral load. It will be considered for men who have had vaginal sex with a woman who is known to be HIV positive, unless she has an undetectable viral load.

Non-sterile injection equipment: PEP is recommended if you have used injecting equipment previously used by someone who is known to be HIV positive, unless they have an undetectable viral load.

In cases of emergency, which would be, if you had a condom break and the man came inside you or you realised the condom came off before ejaculation inside the arse. Then you would need to go as soon as possible after the risk to a local A&E department. In case of any other doubt, call 016 and they will resolve if you have to go to the emergency room or not.

The nearest to Sitges would be:

Hospital Residència Sant Camil-Urgencias Medicas
Ronda de Sant Camil, s/n, 4
08810 Sant Pere de Ribes
how to arrive? Link here

Or to

Hospital de Bellvitge Urgencias,
Edificio Tecnoquirúrgico del Hospital Universitario de Bellvitge*

c/ Feixa Llarga, sn.
08907 Hospitalet de Llobregat. Barcelona
how to arrive? Link here

If you find you have to use PEP twice in one year you may be able to access PrEP (see PrEP page) this will give you protection against contracting HIV but will not protect you from any other Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) so condom use is still advised for casual sex.

If you have any sexual health questions you can email vih@gaysitgeslink.org

Thanks to NAM aidsmap for information contained on this page.