PrEP vs PEP: What’s the difference?
PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) and PEP (post-exposure prophylaxis) are medications that prevent HIV infection in different ways. Let’s break down the differences between PrEP and PEP.
When do I take it?
PrEP is medication you can take to prevent HIV infection, when taken as prescribed. There are two options for taking PrEP: a once-daily pill OR an injectable medication that must be administered—that is, injected into your buttocks—by a healthcare provider once a month for the first two months and then once every other month after that (or 6 times a year). The injectable medication (Apretude) is expected to be available early 2022.
PEP is taken after possible exposure to HIV. PEP must be started within 72 hours (the earlier, the better!) of possible exposure to HIV. PEP is taken once every day for 28 days.
Which one should I take?
PrEP is for people who are HIV-negative, but who are at risk for getting HIV either through sex or drug use.
PEP is also for people who are HIV-negative, but who may have had a one-time exposure to HIV through sexual activity, sexual assault, or drug use.
Are PrEP and PEP effective?
PrEP is one of the most effective ways to prevent HIV. In fact, taking PrEP can be even more effective than condoms, but you must take it as prescribed. (It’s still a good idea to use condoms while on PrEP to protect against STDs like chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis.)
PEP is also extremely effective at preventing HIV. But you must take PEP within 72 hours of possible exposure to the virus. After 72 hours, PEP doesn’t work.
Where do I get PrEP and PEP?
PrEP isn’t available over the counter. It must be prescribed by a healthcare provider. Don’t have a doctor? Search for a provider near you.
If you are interested in PrEP but don’t know where to go or are worried about the cost, the PrEPDAP program may be able to help.
PEP also requires a prescription from a doctor. You can also visit an urgent care center or emergency room within 72 hours of possible exposure to HIV. If you don’t have insurance, or if you have insurance but can’t afford the co-pays for PEP medications, the nPEP Program may be able to cover the cost.