Even if you’re diligent about HIV prevention, it is possible to slip up. If you do, there’s now Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP), a treatment you should seek as soon as possible.

To be effective, PEP treatment must begin within 72 hours of exposure. It should be taken every day for 28 days. Your doctor will determine which treatment is right for you based on how you were exposed to HIV.

You should get PEP treatment immediately if you believe you may have had a high-risk exposure to HIV, such as:

  • Unprotected sex with someone who has told you he or she is HIV positive or you think may have HIV
  • A condom that has broken or fallen off during sex
  • Rape or sexual assault
  • Work-related exposure to HIV, such as contact with infected materials or a needle stick injury
  • Sharing needles to inject any type of drugs (including steroids)


PEP is an emergency prevention strategy that needs to be started no later than 72 hours after exposure. The sooner you begin treatment, the better.

If you repeatedly find yourself at risk for exposure to HIV, you shouldn’t rely on PEP as a prevention method. Instead, consider Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP), a once-a-day pill that helps prevent HIV.