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HIV Prevention: What is PEP?

Apicha Community Health Center Feb 18, 2021  

Apicha CHC PEP iStock-1215928393

If you know what PrEP is, chances are you've also heard of PEP. While PrEP is best known as an HIV prevention method, PEP is also a way to protect against HIV. Read on to learn about how PEP works and how to get PEP.

Information for this blog is derived from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

What is PEP? 

PEP, which stands for post-exposure prophylaxis, is a medication taken after you think you may have been exposed to HIV. It can be effective in emergency situations, but you must take it within 72 hours of the potential exposure in order for it to work. You will then have to take PEP daily for 28 days.

PEP should not be used as a substitute for an HIV prevention medication like PrEP, or as a back-up measure to not using a condom or practicing safe sex. 

When to use PEP

PEP is an emergency HIV prevention method. It's important to always talk with your provider about PrEP and PEP. You should take PEP in emergency situations when you think you may have been exposed to HIV:

  • If a condom breaks during sex.
  • If you have unprotected sex. 
  • Through sharing needles, syringes, or other equipment to inject drugs.
  • In the event of a sexual assault.
What are PEP side effects?

The most common side effects of PEP is nausea. Most of the time, it is mild, and not everyone experiences them. If you are experiencing other side effects while on PEP, reach out to your provider right away. PEP is a safe drug to use.

How well does PEP work?

The sooner you use PEP after being exposed to HIV, the better. As mentioned above, PEP will only work if you take it within the first 72 hours of potential exposure. It is not a one-time pill. You will have to take PEP pills daily for 28 days. Your medical provider will explain the process and steps you need to take.  

After you complete the 28-day course of PEP, you'll need to follow up with your doctor, and should get an HIV test to. While PEP is a successful HIV prevention method, it isn't 100 percent effective. 

Always practice safe sex

PEP is a great emergency HIV prevention method, but it should not be a regular substitute or solution. PEP will not protect you from or treat any STIs, or prevent pregnancy. Practicing safe sex can help prevent HIV transmission. You should always follow these guidelines:

  • Use protection during sex, especially if you have multiple sexual partners.
  • Get on PrEP.
  • Get tested for HIV frequently. 
Where to get PEP

If you think you were exposed to HIV, contact your medial provider immediately, or go to a sexual health clinic, urgent care center, or emergency room.  If you need PEP or PrEP, Apicha CHC can help you. 

The cost of PEP

We understand not everyone has the ability to pay for the cost of PEP. In most cases, your health insurance provider will cover the cost of PrEP. However, there are still options for you if you need access to PEP:

  • Your health care provider can apply for free PEP medicines through the medication assistance programs run by the manufacturers.
  • These requests for assistance can be handled urgently in many cases to avoid a delay in getting medicine.
  • Enrollment applications, such as Gilead’s Advancing Access form or NASTAD’s Patient Assistance tool, can be completed online, over the phone, or by fax.
Apicha CHC can get you PEP

At Apicha CHC, we are very proud of our viral load suppression rate for all our patients, the number of our patients on PrEP, and the number of people we get tested.

Our healthcare providers are specialists in HIV prevention, treatment, and care. If you come for testing and remain for care at our community health center, you will receive consistent treatment from a healthcare provider who can attend to all of your health needs including HIV.

There are three ways we can help: 

1.  HIV Testing 

We provide completely confidential HIV testing services at Apicha CHC.   To sign up for our HIV Testing services, click here and select HIV/STD testing from the drop down.  

2.  We can get you PrEP

If you become part of Apicha CHC's PrEP Program, you will be assigned a medical provider at Apicha CHC who will assess whether PrEP is right for you and will prescribe you Truvada as PrEP. 

Our PrEP staff can also help you:

  • Enroll in insurance or sign you up for special PrEP cost programs 
  • Set up your appointments
  • Remind you when your pills are running out 
  • You can easily pick-up your prescription at Apicha CHC's brand new in-house pharmacy or you can use our free delivery service! 

You can request an appointment to get started on PrEP here.  Be sure to select appointment type as  "Access to PrEP/PEP".

3.  Become a part of our HIV Clinic 

If you know you're HIV-positive and don't currently have a medical provider or aren't happy with the one you do have,  feel free to become a part of the Apicha CHC family.  

You can request an appointment here.  Be sure to select appointment type as "Primary Medical Care."

You can request a PrEP or PEP appointment with Apicha CHC here.

Ready to take action about your health?
 request an appointment

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