Overview of prophylactic (preventative) treatment to prevent HIV infection.
PrEP and PEP are two types of prophylactic (preventative) treatment to help prevent human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection. Although HIV transmission is not completely preventable, the risk can be decreased significantly with PrEP and PEP.
PrEP, or pre-exposure prophylaxis, is a combination of HIV medications, taken daily in pill form to reduce the risk of becoming infected. Typically, PrEP is used to help prevent an HIV-negative person from getting HIV from an infected partner. PrEP is not used to treat people who are already infected.
PrEP works by preventing HIV from spreading in the body. For PrEP to be effective in preventing HIV infection, it has to be taken consistently. If doses are skipped and the level of medication in the bloodstream is reduced, it may not work. It’s important to remember that PrEP is not a vaccine and the person taking it is not immune to infection.
If you or your partner is considering taking PrEP, talk to your doctor to learn more about the risks and benefits, and to find out if this medication is right for you.
PEP, or post-exposure prophylaxis, is another type of preventative therapy and is taken to prevent HIV infection in those who may have been exposed. The earlier PEP is started, the more likely it is to be effective. So if you believe you’ve been exposed, talk to your doctor right away.
PEP uses the same type of medications used to treat people with known infections. For most patients, it is taken once or twice daily for 28 days. Like PrEP, it must be taken exactly as prescribed to be effective. PEP uses similar medications to PrEP, but in much higher doses. Therefore, PEP should only be used in emergency situations.
To learn more about PrEP and PEP, talk to your doctor or your CVS Specialty CareTeam.