Post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) refers to the prescription of a month-long course of antiretroviral drugs following exposure to HIV, to prevent infection. These are the same antiretroviral drug prescribed for HIV-positive people as treatment.
Research suggests that if PEP is initiated soon after HIV exposure, HIV infection (seroconversion) can be averted. PEP should be started as soon as possible and no later than 72 hours after exposure, and then taken for 28 days without interruption.
The most common reasons PEP is prescribed are potential exposure to HIV via unprotected sex, condom breakage, sharing needles or syringes, or needle-stick injuries.
PEP is available from emergency departments at most public hospitals, sexual health clinics and some other clinics, and from doctors that specialise in gay men’s health and HIV.
People requesting PEP will be offered counselling and HIV testing (with informed consent). Medical staff will conduct a risk assessment, and depending on the result of this assessment, the person will be prescribed the month-long course of antiretroviral drugs with follow-up and support.