Understanding Post-Exposure Prophylaxis

Post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) is a way to prevent infection after exposure to HIV or other bloodborne pathogens. PEP can be started as soon as possible after a potential exposure. There are three components to PEP: 1) antiretroviral therapy (ART), 2) antibiotics, and 3) prevention of sexually transmitted infections. People who get post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP), also called "post-exposure antiviral drugs" or "PEP" may have less chance of becoming infected with HIV than people who don't get PEP.

What is a post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) regimen?

Post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) is a series of medications that you take after exposure to a disease, such as HIV or hepatitis B, in order to prevent infection. PEP must be started within 72 hours after contact with an infectious agent. The goal of PEP is to reduce the risk of acquiring an infectious disease by interfering with its replication at the earliest possible time point post-exposure, thereby decreasing the likelihood that it will become established in your body.

PEP does not eliminate all risks of infection but may reduce it by up to 80%. However, there are no guarantees; even if you take PEP as prescribed and adhere strictly to all other recommendations for preventing HIV transmission (e.g., use condoms), there is still no guarantee that you won't get infected with HIV after being exposed through sexual contact or needle sharing activities involving an infected person; similarly, while taking anti-hepatitis B medication can help prevent hepatitis B infection after exposure has occurred via contaminated needles or blood transfusions (in rare cases), there's no guarantee that any given person will develop symptoms from this type of exposure either!

How do I know if I need PEP?

You’ll need to be at risk for HIV and/or hepatitis B or C. You also need to have been exposed to a person who has HIV or hepatitis B or C within 72 hours.

You may be at risk if:

  • You shared needles with someone who is infected with one of these viruses.
  • You had unprotected sex without using condoms with someone who has one of these viruses (HIV can be passed through semen).
  • Someone gave you an injection of drugs like heroin, methamphetamines, or cocaine and then reused the needle without cleaning it first (this is called needle sharing).

You were born to a mother who had HIV or hepatitis B or C and did not receive proper treatment during pregnancy. The virus can be passed to you through a blood transfusion, organ transplant, childbirth, or breastfeeding.

How do I take PEP?

PEP must be taken as soon as possible after exposure to HIV. It should be taken for 28 days, even if you don't think you were exposed to HIV. The sooner you start taking PEP, the more effective it will be at preventing HIV infection.

You should take the medication exactly as prescribed by your doctor or healthcare provider. Do not stop taking PEP without talking to your doctor first; this may reduce its effectiveness against HIV infection and lead to an increased risk of developing AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome) or other complications associated with HIV infection if left untreated.

Does insurance cover PEP?

If you're interested in getting PEP, the first thing to do is check with your insurance provider. Some insurers do not cover PEP, but others may provide coverage if you are in a high-risk group. If you are unsure about whether or not your plan covers it, call the number on the back of your card and ask them directly.

PEP must be started within 72 hours after exposure to bloodborne pathogens such as HIV or hepatitis B virus (HBV). It can be taken for up to 28 days; however, many doctors recommend taking two weeks' worth at once instead of splitting up doses throughout that time period because doing so can reduce side effects such as nausea and headaches associated with taking multiple medications over long periods of time


PEP is a way to help protect you from getting HIV or hepatitis B if you have been potentially exposed to blood or other body fluids that contain these viruses.

PEP must be started as soon as possible after exposure and will work best if it's taken every day for 4 weeks. The sooner you start PEP, the better it works!

If you miss doses of PEP, contact your healthcare provider right away so they can decide whether or not another dose should be given at that time or later on in your treatment plan (this could mean taking two doses of medication instead of one). If this happens often enough, it could affect how well your treatment works overall--so try not to forget any doses!


PEP is a lifesaving option for people who have been exposed to bloodborne pathogens. It's important to know that there are many factors that determine whether or not PEP is right for you, including your level of risk and whether or not you have health insurance coverage for this medication. If you think you may need PEP after an exposure, call 911 immediately so that emergency responders can help assess the situation before any decisions are made about treatment options!


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