Post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP)

If a person is exposed to HIV during sex, for example if a condom breaks, many clinics can provide them with a short-course of anti-HIV drugs to prevent infection. This is called post-exposure prophylaxis, or PEP for short.

PEP may also be considered in cases of rape and sexual assault where there is a risk of HIV transmission. 

It is important to get and take PEP as soon as possible after possible exposure to HIV, ideally within four hours, within 24 hours if possible, and certainly within 72 hours (but many believe that this is too late).

If you have unprotected sex with a person who is HIV negative or whose HIV status you do not know, or if there is a condom accident during sex, the thought that you may have exposed them to the risk of HIV infection is very worrying.

In the UK, there are guidelines covering PEP and when it should be given. You can read more about them here

If you do think that PEP might be appropriate, go with them to your local sexual health clinic as soon as possible. If this is closed then go to the accident and emergency department of your local hospital, which should contact the on-call HIV doctor.

This content was checked for accuracy at the time it was written. It may have been superseded by more recent developments. NAM recommends checking whether this is the most current information when making decisions that may affect your health.