PEP for HIV Exposures

If you’ve had an exposure

Phoenix PEP Urgent Locations

If you’ve had an exposure to HIV, below, you’ll find urgent or emergency care locations who may be able to help:

Banner Emergency Departments
Emergency Departments located throughout Phoenix


Express Urgent Care
Urgent Care locations throughout Phoenix

Click the image above to view, print or download a flyer to learn more about HIV transmission.

PEP (Post-Exposure Prophylaxis) can help stop HIV if you’ve been exposed to it

You should seek Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP) treatment immediately, if you believe you may have had a high-risk exposure to HIV, such as:

  • a bareback hookup with someone who has told you they HIV, 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 or hormones)

Don’t wait! PEP can only be provided up to 72 hours after exposure, but the quicker you begin treatment, the better. If you feel you’ve been exposed to HIV, call your doctor immediately. If your doctor’s office is closed, go to the nearest emergency room or urgent care clinic for treatment. Below, you’ll find a list of commonly asked questions about PEP and a list of Phoenix Arizona Emergency Locations who are knowledgeable about PEP.

Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP) involves taking anti-HIV medications as soon as possible after you may have been exposed to HIV, to try to reduce the chance of becoming HIV positive. These medications keep HIV from making copies of itself and spreading through your body. To be effective, you must begin PEP within 72 hours of exposure, before the virus has time to make too many copies of itself in your body. PEP consists of 2-3 antiretroviral medications and should be taken every day for 28 days. Your doctor will determine what treatment is right for you based on how you were exposed to HIV.

Who needs PEP?

PEP is used for anyone who may have been exposed to HIV during a single event. There are two types of PEP:

Non-occupational PEP, taken when someone is potentially exposed to HIV outside the workplace, such as:

  • unprotected sex
  • sexual assault
  • after needle-sharing injection drug use (including steroids and hormones)

Occupational PEP, taken when someone working in a healthcare setting is potentially exposed to material infected with HIV, such as:

  • getting cut or stuck with a needle that was used to draw blood from a person who may have HIV infection
  • getting blood or other body fluids that carry HIV in their eyes or mouth
  • getting blood or other body fluids that carry HIV on their skin when it is chapped, scraped, or affected by certain rashes

Keep in mind that PEP should only be used in uncommon situations right after a potential HIV exposure. It is not a substitute for other proven HIV prevention methods, such as correct and consistent condom use, taking PrEP daily or use of sterile injection equipment.

How safe and effective is PEP?

PEP is safe but may cause side effects like nausea in some people. These side effects can be treated and are not life threatening. PEP is not 100% effective. It does not guarantee that someone exposed to HIV will not become infected with HIV. Because PEP is not 100% effective, you should continue to use condoms with sex partners while taking PEP, and should not use injection equipment that has been used by others. This will help avoid spreading the virus to others if you have become infected.

How soon should I take PEP if I’ve been exposed?

To be effective, PEP must begin as soon as possible, but always within 72 hours of exposure. Your healthcare provider will consider whether PEP is right for you based on how you might have been exposed, and whether you know if the person whose fluids you were exposed to might be HIV positive. You will be asked to return for more HIV testing at approximately 4 to 6 weeks, 3 months and 6 months after the potential exposure to HIV. Your healthcare provider will talk with you to establish a follow-up schedule.

Where can I get a prescription for PEP?

If you’ve been exposed, contact your doctor’s office and stress to them you feel you’ve had a significant exposure to HIV, and ask to be worked into their schedule immediately. If your doctor’s office is closed, or they’re unable to work you into their schedule, go to an Urgent Care Clinic or a Phoenix Emergency Room.

Who pays for PEP?

PEP is typically covered by insurance programs. If you do not have insurance, your health care provider can help you apply for free medications through the patient assistance program of the drug’s manufacturer. These programs can often process applications quickly to avoid a delay in accessing medication. If you are prescribed PEP after sexual assault, you may qualify for partial or total reimbursement for medications and clinical care costs through the Office for Victims of Crime funded by the U.S. Department of Justice. If you are a healthcare worker who was exposed to HIV on the job, your workplace health insurance or workers’ compensation will usually pay for PEP. Talk with your administrator who oversees workplace safety for more information.

Can I just take a round of PEP every time I go bareback with someone new?

PEP should only be used right after an uncommon situation with potential HIV exposure. If you are often exposed to HIV, for example, because you often have sex without a condom with a partner who is HIV-positive or bareback hook-ups with random guys, repeated uses of PEP are not the right choice because PEP involves more drugs and higher doses to block infection once HIV has already potentially entered the body and started replicating. Pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP may be a better alternative if you’re continually at high-risk of contracting HIV. PrEP is taking a daily pill (brand name, Truvada) for an extended period of time. This keeps medication in your body to keep HIV from making copies of itself and spreading infection through your body anytime you are exposed. If you are at ongoing risk for HIV, talk to your doctor about PrEP.

When should I get an HIV test if I started taking PEP?

 

The CDC Guidelines on Antiretroviral Postexposure Prophylaxis after sexual, injection drug use or other non-occupational exposure to HIV recommends that people should be tested for HIV antibodies when PEP is prescribed, 4-6 weeks after exposure, then 3 months and 6 months after exposure. Get tested for free with Southwest Center for HIV/AIDS. Find free Rapid HIV Testing Phoenix locations and hours at Southwest Center here.