So you think you may have been exposed to HIV. Now what do you do? If you weren’t already taking PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) – medications that prevent HIV from taking hold in your body – there is still a way to prevent HIV now that you’ve been exposed to it.
For starters, visit one of our health centers. In addition to offering rapid HIV tests and HIV counseling, we now offer medications that can reduce your risk of being infected with HIV up to three days (72 hours) after being exposed to the virus. It reduces your chances of contracting the virus by over 80 percent.
These medications are called PEP*, or post-exposure prophylaxis.
PEP is a regimen that consists of taking multiple antiretroviral medications over the course of 28 days. The medications work to prevent HIV from replicating and spreading through your body to reduce your chances of becoming HIV-positive. Even if PEP is taken correctly, there is no guarantee that it will absolutely prevent HIV infection.
Various factors can reduce the effectiveness of PEP, including waiting to take the medication (for maximum effectiveness, it should be taken as soon as possible following exposure), potential drug-resistant HIV, and not adhering to or completing the 28-day medication regimen.
Remember, PEP is not a cure, nor is it 100 percent effective. If taken, it can also cause you to develop drug resistance in the case of future HIV infection. Because of this, PEP should be used as a last resort in HIV prevention as an emergency measure.
PEP is a relatively involved medical process and not something that you can just pick up at your local drugstore. In addition to the medication regimen, taking PEP involves constant monitoring and testing, even up to 6 months after exposure. So stay safe: Get yourself tested regularly, always use condoms and encourage your partner(s) to do so as well.
If you have been exposed to HIV, whether it be via rape or sexual assault, unprotected consensual sex, or sharing needles, you may benefit from using PEP. PEP may be available at your doctor’s office, emergency rooms, urgent care and local HIV clinics. It’s also available at our health centers — come see us anytime.
*We do not provide PEP prescriptions for people who have been exposed to HIV through their occupation.