All of our clinicians are Queer and Trans competent who offer compassionate care with a specific understanding in HIV, PEP, STI, and LGBTQ+ services.
What should I do if I think I have been exposed to HIV?
PEP is most effective when taken immediately following an exposure to HIV. If you believe you have been exposed to HIV, you should seek PEP as quickly as possible. If you answer yes to any of the following questions, you should seek PEP immediately:
Have you just experienced sexual assault?
Did you just have unprotected vaginal or anal sex with someone who you know is living with HIV or whose status you do not know? (Unprotected means that a condom was not used, or that the condom broke or slipped off during sex.)
Did you share needles (for drugs, hormones, or tattoos) or other drug injection equipment (works) with someone you either know is living with HIV or whose HIV status you don’t know?
How effective is PEP?
PEP is effective in preventing HIV, but not 100%. The specific effectiveness varies based on how soon after the potential exposure you start PEP, and if you complete the full course of medication. We recommend that you come back to the clinic after completing your month of PEP to be re-screened for HIV.
What can I expect when I ask for PEP?
A healthcare provider will want to discuss your exposure to HIV, including the date, time, and nature of the exposure. This is to evaluate whether PEP will be safe, effective, and necessary in your situation. You will be asked to test for HIV. A health care provider must verify that you are currently HIV-negative before prescribing PEP. If your test is positive (indicating an infection pre-dating your exposure), the provider will discuss making a treatment plan with you.
If you refuse HIV testing, you may be unable to receive PEP.
You may be offered additional testing for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and/or Hepatitis C.
You may be offered vaccines against other diseases, such as Hepatitis A and B.
If you can become pregnant, you may be offered a pregnancy test and emergency contraception.
Your provider will want to make a plan with you to reduce the risk of being exposed to HIV in the future.
Your provider may want to discuss pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), a daily medication like PEP that can reduce the chance of acquiring HIV if taken consistently and correctly. Unlike PEP, PrEP is taken before an exposure ever occurs, to introduce medications into your body that can prevent HIV from establishing infection. Once finished with PEP, many patients choose to take PrEP to continue reducing their risk of acquiring HIV.
Once you have started PEP, your provider may wish to schedule a 1 month follow-up appointment to verify that PEP has successfully prevented HIV.
How will I take PEP?
If the health care provider decides to prescribe PEP to you, the medication will be explained in detail at the time of your visit. You will be asked to fill the prescription and take the medication as directed. If PEP is obtained through an emergency room, you may be given the first dose along with a few days’ supply in order to give you time to fill the prescription for the rest.
Once you begin taking PEP, it is important to continue taking the medication as directed. Stopping or skipping doses may reduce success . PEP is prescribed for 28 days, meaning you must take the medication each day for 28 days. Do not skip doses. PEP may not work correctly if taken in combination with certain medications. Before starting PEP, be certain to discuss any medications you’re taking with your provider and the pharmacist filling you prescription. Be sure to discuss any over-the-counter drugs, herbal medicines, and vitamins you’re taking.
You should only stop taking PEP if your healthcare provider instructs you to do so. You must complete the full course of medication to have the best chance of preventing HIV.
Are there side effects to taking PEP?
Most people who take PEP do not report any side effects. For those who do, the most common side effects are nausea, upset stomach, headaches, and fatigue.
Tell your provider right away if you experience side effects that make it difficult to take the medication. Do not stop taking PEP before talking to your provider; there may be ways to make you feel better, or alleviate side effects. Most who do experience side effects decide to continue taking PEP because they want to do everything possible to prevent HIV. Many patients recognize that one month of PEP is easier than a lifetime of HIV medications.
Can I take PEP if I’m on hormones?
PEP does not interfere with hormone therapy and is an effective prevention option for transgender and gender nonconforming people.
Can I take PEP if I use hormonal birth control or if I am pregnant?
PEP does not interfere with hormonal birth control, IUDs, emergency contraception (Plan B/"Morning-After Pill"), or other forms of birth control. PEP may be an option if you are pregnant, breastfeeding, or trying to get pregnant. Ask your provider for more information.
Can I use PrEP after PEP?
Yes! For most people we recommend considering continuing on to PrEP after your one month of PEP is over. PrEP is when people at risk for HIV take one daily pill to lower the chances of aquiring HIV. If you are at ongoing risk for HIV, PrEP may be right for you. Click here to learn more about PrEP
How can I pay for PEP?
THRIVE is providing free and full access to PEP services. The PEP medications and the necessary follow-up appointments are covered by most insurances. If you do not have insurance or have trouble paying for PEP, there are financial assistance options available to help pay for the medication and lab costs. THRIVE at the Aliveness Project covers lab tests, STI screening, and PEP prescription.
If you are uninsured or cannot afford your medication costs, contact [email protected] or 612.822.9646 to discuss financial assistance options available to you.