HIV, STD and Hepatitis Branch

Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP)

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What is post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP)?

PEP (post-exposure prophylaxis) means taking a month-long course of antiretroviral medicines (ART) after possibly having been exposed to HIV in order to reduce the risk of becoming infected. 

PEP must be started within 72 hours after a possible exposure to HIV. If you think you’ve recently been exposed to HIV during sex or through sharing needles or if you’ve been sexually assaulted, talk to your health care provider or an emergency room doctor about PEP right away. The earlier PEP is started, the more likely it is to prevent HIV infection.

Does PEP have side effects?

PEP is safe but may cause side effects like nausea in some people. These side effects can be treated and aren’t life-threatening.

How do I get PEP?

Any doctor can prescribe PEP. Since PEP must be started within 72 hours of possible exposure, you must visit a healthcare provider as soon as possible. If your exposure occurs on an evening or weekend, hospital emergency rooms are equipped to start you on PEP.  

The Rosecrans STD clinic can provide PEP through a patient assistance program, which only accepts un- or under-insured patients.

How can I pay for PEP?

PEP is covered by many private insurance plans and by Medi-Cal. Your health care provider can apply for free PEP medicines through the medication assistance programs run by the manufacturers. 

Visit the Center for Disease Control and Prevention's PEP page.

For more information, phone (619) 293-4700 or send us an email.

Last updated June 21, 2018.