What else might guys want to know about PEP and how it works?
How well does PEP work?
Although PEP has been shown to lower the possibility of acquiring HIV, there isn’t a clear idea of how complete this protection is. Very few cases of HIV transmission have occurred when PEP is taken correctly. What’s known for sure is that the sooner you take it, the better chance you have of not acquiring HIV. Even a few hours may make a difference.
When does PEP not work?
PEP doesn’t work if you take it more than 72 hours after exposure, though this doesn’t mean that you will acquire HIV. It also doesn’t work as well if you don’t take the full 28 days of treatment or experience additional exposures to HIV.
If you think you have been exposed in the last week or so, even if you have no symptoms of HIV, go get tested three weeks after the incident. If you have symptoms, go get tested right away. A lot of new infections happen when somebody has recently acquired HIV, so it’s important to use condoms with others during this period right after you think you may have been exposed. Keep using condoms until you’ve confirmed your HIV status.
If you’re worried, remember that if you do acquire HIV, HIV treatments these days are very effective. Getting treated right away is actually the best thing you can do for your long-term health.
What else can I do to make PEP work best?
PEP is a sexual health strategy that is only a back-up plan when others fall through. PEP is probably not necessary if you are taking PrEP consistently and/or your HIV-positive sex partner is undetectable. While on PEP, it’s best to use condoms to avoid additional exposure to HIV or other STIs.
Something happened a couple days ago, can I still get PEP?
It depends — PEP has to be taken within 72 hours of the incident, and works best if you take it as soon as possible after it happens. Every hour may make a difference, if it’s been longer than 72 hours, you should get tested and talk to someone like a doctor or counselor about next steps.
Can I use PEP as a treatment more than once?
Yes, you can. It won’t hurt you to do a PEP treatment more than once, besides dealing with the possible side effects. However, if you feel you’re getting exposed to HIV a lot, PEP isn’t going to be the best way to stay safe and have the sex you want to have. If you find this happening often, look into PrEP, condoms, and undetectable viral load as sexual health strategies. If you think your mental health or substance use is affecting your condom use, you may want to talk to a counselor. You can also check out our section about looking out for yourself to help think this through.
What if I forgot to take my pill?
Don’t panic! But do take it as soon as you remember and try not to let it happen again. Also, don’t double dose, as it may be hard on your system.
Is it normal to feel like shit while taking PEP?
Some guys experience side effects from PEP. Some PEP treatments have harsher side effects than others. Many guys experience no side effects, but possible side-effects include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, headaches, and fatigue. Today, most people who start PEP finish the 28 days without much trouble because the drugs commonly used have fewer side-effects than earlier ones.
Can I have sex on PEP?
Yes, you can have sex while taking PEP. Still, some guys choose to take a break. It’s important to avoid additional exposure to HIV while taking PEP.
Can I drink or get high on PEP?
Drinking and getting high can interact with medications, so it’s best to ask your doctor.
I’ve heard about PEP-In-Pocket. What is that?
PEP-In-Pocket (PIP) is PEP that you keep on hand so you can start taking it immediately if you find you’ve been exposed to HIV, without a trip to the emergency room. It’s for people who can anticipate that they might be exposed to HIV some time in the future, but not so often that taking PrEP makes sense for them. To access PIP in Ontario, get in touch with the PrEPrx Clinic by filling out this intake form.