Worried About a Possible Exposure?

Quick Treatment Can Minimize Your Risk of Getting HIV

You should seek Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP) treatment immediately if you believe you may have had a high-risk exposure to HIV, such as:

  • Unprotected sex with someone who has told you they have HIV, or you think may have HIV

  • A condom that has broken, or fallen off during sex

  • Rape or sexual assault

  • Work-related exposure to HIV, such as contact with infected materials, or a needle stick injury

  • Sharing needles to inject any type of drugs (including steroids)

Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP)

Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP) involves taking anti-HIV medications as soon as possible after you may have been exposed to HIV, to try to reduce the chance of becoming HIV positive. These medications keep HIV from making copies of itself and spreading through your body.

To be effective, you must begin PEP within 72 hours of exposure, before the virus has time to make too many copies of itself in your body. PEP consists of two to three antiretroviral medications and should be taken every day for 28 days. Your doctor will determine what treatment is right for you based on how you were exposed to HIV.

Start PEP Within 72 Hours

PEP is an emergency prevention strategy that needs to be started no later than 72 hours after exposure. The quicker you begin treatment, the better.

If you find yourself at repeated risk for contracting HIV, you shouldn't rely on PEP as a prevention method. Instead, consider Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP), a once-a-day pill that can help keep you from getting HIV.

PEP is Safe and Effective

PEP is safe but may cause side effects like nausea in some people. These side effects can be treated and are not life threatening.

While PEP is highly effective, it is not a guarantee that someone exposed to HIV will not become infected with HIV. Because PEP is not 100% effective, you should continue to use condoms with sex partners while taking PEP, and should not use injection equipment that has been used by others. This will help avoid spreading the virus to others if you have become infected.

Places to Get PEP

Some of the places you can go to seek treatment include your doctor’s office, emergency rooms, urgent care clinics, or a local HIV clinic. Click here for a list of County Health Departments that can help you find a provider who can prescribe PEP.

Paying for PEP

PEP is typically covered by insurance programs. If you do not have insurance, your health care provider can help you apply for free medications through the patient assistance programs of the drug manufacturers. These programs can often process applications quickly to avoid a delay in accessing medication. See information for specific medications and manufacturers.

If you are prescribed PEP after sexual assault, you may qualify for partial or total reimbursement for medications and clinical care costs through the Office for Victims of Crime funded by the U.S. Department of Justice (see the contact information for each state).

If you are a healthcare worker who was exposed to HIV on the job, your workplace health insurance or workers’ compensation will usually pay for PEP. Talk with your administrator who oversees workplace safety for more information.