Post-Exposure Prophylaxis - Los Angeles LGBT Center

Post-Exposure Prophylaxis

If you believe you've been exposed to HIV, you should consider drug treatment known as post-exposure prophylaxis that could prevent HIV infection if used within 72 hours of exposure.

How do I get PEP?

The Los Angeles LGBT Center offers PEP. Based on your income, you may even qualify for free treatment. To learn more, please call us at 323-993-7500.

Note: If you believe you were exposed on Friday night or on Saturday, you should consider going to the emergency room of a hospital to access PEP.

What is Post-Exposure Prophylaxis?

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, PEP must begin within 72 hours of exposure, before the virus has time to make too many copies of itself in your body. PEP consists of 2-3 antiretroviral medications and should be taken for 28 days. The provider will determine what treatment is right for you based on how you were exposed to HIV.

PEP is safe but may cause side effects like nausea in some people. These side effects can be treated and are not life threatening. PEP is not 100% effective; it does not guarantee that someone exposed to HIV will not become infected with HIV.

Who Needs PEP?

PEP can be used to treat people who may have been exposed to HIV during a single event (e.g., during episodes of unprotected sex, needle-sharing injection drug use, or sexual assault).

(PEP should only be used in uncommon situations right after a potential HIV exposure. It is not a substitute for other proven HIV prevention methods, such as correct and consistent condom use or use of sterile injection equipment.

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 become infected.

When Should I Take PEP?

To be effective, PEP must begin as soon as possible, but always within 72 hours of exposure. Your healthcare provider will consider whether PEP is right for you based on how you might have been exposed and whether you know if the person whose fluids you were exposed to might be HIV-positive. You will be asked to return for more HIV testing at 4 to 6 weeks, 3 months, and 6 months after the potential exposure to HIV.

For more information, see the Center for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC's) Updated (2013) U.S. Public Health Service Guidelines for the Management of Nonoccupational Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (nPEP) Guidelines.

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