PEP 101

Looking to get educated on what PEP is and how is can work for you? Start here.

 
 
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WHAT IS PrEP?

PEP stands for post-exposure prophylaxis.

post = after exposure = exposure to HIV prophylaxis = prevention ]

PEP is a 28 day regime of medication taken by HIV-negative people to protect them from HIV transmission after a potential exposure.

Think of PrEP like the female contraceptive pill, and PEP like the emergency contraceptive (or morning after) pill.

 
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HOW DOES PEP WORK?

PEP works by using anti-retroviral medication to prevent HIV from taking hold in the body. When HIV enters the body it targets T-cells (the body’s immune cells) where it multiplies before destroying the T-cell and moving on to infect and destroy many more. The drugs in PEP stop this replication process, and with nowhere to go the virus dies off.

You need to access PEP within 72 hours of exposure for it to be as effective as possible at preventing HIV. There are many places to get PEP – but if your exposure happens after hours it’s best to shoot off to emergency rather than wait til morning. The faster you get on PEP the better.

If you need to find somewhere to get PEP, head to GETPEP.info to find your closest hospital, or GP prescribing PEP.

 
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DO I NEED PEP?

If you think you’ve been exposed to HIV you should access PEP from GETPEP.info

You need PEP if you are HIV-negative but have been potentially exposed to HIV. Don’t forget, it doesn’t matter if you are the top or bottom – anyone can get HIV.

However, just because you’ve had sex without a condom doesn’t mean you need PEP.

If you’ve fucked someone who is on PrEP, or positive with an undetectable viral load it is not recommended that you access PEP.

  • We know that people who are on PrEP and adhering to their regime are HIV-negative, and therefore are unable to transmit the virus, as they do not have any HIV in their body.
  • We know that people with an undetectable viral load are unable to transmit the virus.

HOWEVER…

You need to have all the facts to make the decision on whether you need PEP and you need to have trust in the person you’re fucking.. If you can, discuss your exposure with your partner. Don’t have your hook-ups contact details? It’s best to access PEP as soon as possible.

 
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Where Can I Get IT?

PEP is available at most major hospitals, sexual health clinics, and many sexual health specialist GP Clinics. Wherever you are - you can find access to PEP. 

Call one of the hotlines on GETPEP.info if you’re at all unsure about your risk, and check out the website for a map of your nearest PEP sites. 

 
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IS PREP RIGHT FOR ME?

If you’ve accessed PEP before more than once, you might want to consider PrEP as an extra means of protection from HIV. Talk to your doctor, do your research, and ask friends that are on PrEP – and make an informed decision based on your own risk.

For most people PrEP isn’t for life, and as your risk levels change you can stop PrEP anytime that’s right for you.

 
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Moving from PEP to PrEP?

If you're currently taking a course of PEP - transitioning onto regular PrEP is easy. you can go straight form one onto the other. In fact, for those who have regularly accessed PEP - it may be advisable to do just that, so you don't fall between the gap of being covered by PEP before starting PrEP. 

Chat to a good sexual health GP today, there's no need to wait until your course of PEP ends. 

 
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WHAT IF I’M FIRST NATIONS?

Pricing for HIV treatment varies for the general population by state and territory. First Nations people (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Island people) can access reduced cost medication regardless of where they lived under the Closing the Gap healthcare program. Essentially this means that many PBS listed medications (such as HIV treatments – and PEP) can be accessed for $6.80 – or free if you have a health care card. Your prescriber will need to put a note on your script so that the dispensing chemist will know to give you the correct pricing, so talk with your doctor.

If you’re a prescriber – get up to speed on Closing The Gap

 
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I'm Trans, Is PEP for me?

PEP is for all of us. It works for trans and gender diverse people too. If you’re a HIV-negative trans person whos potentially been exposed to HIV, PEP can work for you too. 

Disclosing your gender identity is not necessary in order to be provided PEP, and it should always be optional - however in assessing your risk, your suitability for PEP (based on your risk) the clinician may ask about the types of sex you've had.

If you’re a HIV-negative trans person we would encourage you to consider PrEP. Globally, trans women who have sex with men shoulder a very heavy burden of HIV and trans men who have sex with other men are at the same risk as their cisgender gay brothers.

The drugs in PEP aren't known to interfere with any transition-related hormones. It is an HIV medication that many trans people living with HIV have used for treatment over many years. It is a good idea however to talk to the clinician prescribing your PEP about any medications you are taking. You can check out any and all interactions with the drugs in PEP at HIV using this great checker tool

Our friends over at PASH.tm have developed a wonderful resource for gay, bi and queer trans men called GRUNT which is well worth a look into – and you can follow up on HIV treatment for trans men specifically there.

Need a trans-friendly GP? Contact your state AIDS Organisation for advice on where to get the care and support that’s right for you.