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PrEP and PEP

PrEP and PEP are two medical methods of HIV prevention. Find out more about how they work and where to access them.

Condoms are the most effective way of preventing the transmission of HIV. However, there are also two medical methods of prevention; PrEP and PEP.  

What is PrEP? 

PrEP (HIV Pre-exposure Prophylaxis) is a medicine for people who do not have HIV. It is a pill you can take before sex that offers near complete protection from HIV (99% effective). It is a very effective tool for people at risk of HIV, especially those who may find it difficult to use condoms every time. 

PrEP is made up of two drugs, Tenofovir and Emtricitabine, which are known as antiretroviral medicines and have been used as part of HIV treatment for many years. You may know them by the brand name, Truvada. However, there are generic forms of the drug with the same active ingredients. 

PrEP is not a vaccine and only provides protection from HIV as long as you continue to take it as prescribed. 

PrEP doesn’t protect against other STIs

It is important to remember that PrEP will not protect you from other sexually transmitted infections (STIs). The only way to prevent the transmission of other STIs is to get regularly tested and to use a condom whenever you have oral, anal or vaginal sex, including when using sex toys.  

Who should take PrEP?

There are different reasons why it might be a good idea to take PrEP, including if:

  • You’re HIV-negative, at high risk of HIV and you don’t always use condoms
  • You’ve recently had an STI (especially rectal infection orsyphilis)
  • You’re using recreational drugs used for chemsex (crystal meth, mephedrone and GHB)
  • Your partner is HIV-positive and isn’t taking their HIV treatment regularly
  • You’ve recently had to take PEP (post-exposure prophylaxis)

Where can I get PrEP?

PrEP is available for free on the NHS from sexual health clinics throughout the UK to everyone, regardless of immigration status.

If the sexual health clinic you go to doesn’t offer it, they will be able to point you towards a service where you can access it.  You can also get PrEP for free from LVNDR, a service built for the LGBT+ community.

It is possible to buy PrEP online but we do not recommend it. There are risks associated with buying medication online and there are specific health risks associated with taking PrEP medication.

However, if you are considering purchasing your own PrEP medication online you should buy PrEP from a reliable source and you should seek advice and support from a sexual health clinic to assess whether the medication is right for you, and to ensure that essential tests are carried out before and during treatment. 

More about PrEP


Will PrEP affect my contraception?

It is safe to use PrEP with all hormonal contraception (ring, patch, the pill, or an implant). PrEP will not affect your contraception and contraception will not affect PrEP.

Can I take PrEP if I’m pregnant or breastfeeding?

PrEP is safe to use if you are pregnant, and if you are breast/chestfeeding.

What is PEP?  

PEP (post-exposure prophylaxis) is a medicine which you can take if you think you may have been exposed to HIV within the last 72 hours (three days). It is a 28-day treatment of powerful drugs and is not guaranteed to work. It is only recommended after high-risk of exposure (for example, if a partner is known to be HIV positive). 

PEP is most effective if taken within the first 24 hours after potential exposure. 

You can get PEP from some sexual health clinics and from A&E Departments.  

More about PEP on the NHS website

More about PEP from the Terrence Higgins Trust

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