PEP and PrEP are both HIV preventative methods that involved taking HIV mediation to reduce your chances of getting infected with HIV.  However, the two can often get confused, so here’s a break down of their differences.

What does it mean?

PEP means Post-Exposure Prophylaxis and PrEP means Pre-exposure prophylaxis. 

When can it be taken? 

PEP is an emergency treatment that is taken after possible exposure to HIV. Because it is not for long-term use, it has to be taken within 72 hours and it is taken for 4 weeks.

PrEP can be taken for a long period and it is meant to be taken every day before you are exposed to HIV. It can be taken with or without food and it’s recommended that you take it around the same time daily. If it is taken correctly, it will be effective. 

Who is it for?

PEP is for people who don’t have HIV but may have been exposed to it. For example, it is given to people who may be exposed during sex, sharing sharp objects like needles, or during a sexual assault. 

PrEP is also for people who don’t have HIV but they might be at risk of getting infected. For example, people whose partners may be living with HIV, having sex with someone whose HIV status is unknown, or by sharing sharp objects like needles.

How do you get it?

If you have to get a prescription for PEP, you have to go to your local healthcare provider within 72 hours (3 days) of the potential exposure. 

Because PrEP is not yet available everywhere, you’d have to ask your doctor or healthcare provider if they can prescribe it for you. If they can’t, then you should ask them to recommend the nearest healthcare centre that might have it in your area. 

I know it may not be easy to ask your healthcare provider about PEP or PrEP but you don’t have to be shy about it. If you feel that you might be at risk of getting exposed to HIV, then you should be brave and ask to be put onto these medications because they can reduce your chances of being infected with HIV.

If you have any questions about PEP or PrEP, you can always contact me here on Ask Choma, send me a Facebook Message, a Twitter DM, or a WhatsApp Message (071 172 3657).