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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. 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. 

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 use a condom whenever you have oral, anal or vaginal sex, including when using sex toys.  

Find out more about condoms.

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

PrEP is now available on the NHS for people who are high risk, and is available from some sexual health clinics, including some Brook clinics. 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.  

As there are risks associated with buying medication online and there are specific health risks associated with taking PrEP medication we do not recommend that you buy PrEP online. 

However if you are considering purchasing your own PrEP medication online you should buy it from a reliable source and you should seek advice and support from an NHS 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. 

Find out more about PrEP.

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.  

Find your local sexual health clinic.

Read more about PEP on the NHS website.

Find out more about PEP from the Terrence Higgins Trust.

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