PrEP & PEP
What is PrEP?
PrEP (or pre-exposure prophylaxis) is a form of HIV prevention approach where HIV-negative individuals use HAART (Highly Active Antiretroviral Therapy) medications to reduce their risk of becoming infected if they are exposed to the virus. The medications work to prevent HIV from establishing infection inside the body.
PrEP has been shown to reduce risk of HIV infection through both sexual intercourse (for gay and bisexual men, transgender women, and heterosexual men and women), as well as among people who inject drugs.
PrEP provides a significant reduction in HIV risk for HIV-negative individuals who take the pill every day as directed. If a daily dose is missed, the level of HIV protection may decrease. It only works if you take it. People who use PrEP correctly and consistently have higher levels of protection against HIV. It does not protect against other sexually transmitted infections (STI) or pregnancy and should still be used in conjunction with condoms. It is not a cure for HIV.
What is PEP?
PEP stands for post-exposure prophylaxis. It involves taking antiretroviral medicines as soon as possible, but no more than 72 hours (three days) after your potential exposure to HIV. The purpose of PEP is to try to reduce the likelihood of contracting HIV. These medicines keep HIV from making copies of itself and spreading throughout the body. Two to three drugs are usually prescribed, and they must be taken for 28 days. PEP is not always effective; it does not guarantee that someone exposed to HIV will not become infected with HIV.
PEP is for anyone who may have been exposed to HIV very recently during a single event. It is not the right choice for people who may be exposed to HIV frequently. See “Contact the Prevention Team” for more information.
If you are prescribed PEP, you will be asked to return for a follow-up visit at four to six weeks, three months, and six months after the potential exposure to HIV. Because PEP is not always effective, you should keep using condoms with sex partners while taking PEP and should not share injection equipment with others.
Frequently Asked Questions
Want to learn more? Visit our HIV 101 page.
Human Immunodeficiency Virus
Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome
HIV is the virus that causes a person to develop AIDS. AIDS is a diagnosis given to individuals that are HIV positive when their immune system has weakened enough to make them vulnerable to life-threatening infections.
HIV is transmitted through body fluids. Blood, semen, vaginal fluid and breast milk are the only four fluids that are able to transmit HIV from one person to another.
Sexually Transmitted Disease or Sexually Transmitted Infection.
Our testing center offers rapid-response HIV testing services. Some STD testing may require a blood sample.
Our rapid-response HIV test results are available within minutes. Other STD/STI testing results may take up to two weeks to process.
Testing frequency should be based on your level of risk. It may take up to 3 months after exposure to detect HIV antibodies. It is generally suggested that sexually active individuals get tested in six month intervals.
There are no reliable signs or symptoms associated with HIV infection. Many people who test positive for the virus have no indication anything is wrong with their health.
If you are exhibiting signs or symptoms (itching, burning, rash) of a STI or know you have a sexual partner that has tested positive for a STI, you should seek treatment with a medical provider. If you do not have a medical provider and need resources for treatment, our testing counselors can help connect you with those services.