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African American man in blue shirt talking with a doctor about PEP
May 30, 2023

PEP Versus PrEP for HIV

Doctors now have a successful HIV prevention option to help prevent someone becoming HIV-positive after a potential exposure to the HIV virus. It’s called Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP). The use of PEP can help considerably in preventing HIV-positive results if it’s taken within 72 hours of potential exposure.

What is PEP?

PEP is a prescription medication that reduces the chances of HIV-negative individuals from becoming HIV-positive after a potential exposure to the virus.

How doe PEP Work?

When HIV enters the body, it attacks the immune system, using the body’s CD4 T cells to create more copies of the virus and spread the infection. If HIV entered a person’s body, PEP tries to stop the virus from spreading by protecting the CD4 T cells. This prevents the HIV from creating more copies of itself and the individual can remain HIV negative. For PEP to achieve best results, it needs to be taken as soon as possible – within 72 hours from the potential exposure to HIV. PEP medication must continue to be taken daily for a total of 28 days.

Who Should Take PEP?

Talk right away (within 72 hours) to your health care physician, an emergency room doctor, or an urgent care provider about PEP if you think you’ve recently been exposed to HIV during any of these activities:

  • during sex (for example, if the condom broke)
  • through sharing needles, syringes, or other equipment to inject drugs (for example, cookers)
  • if you’ve been sexually assaulted

The sooner you start PEP, the better. Every hour counts!

Getting Started on PEP

If you think you’ve been exposed to HIV, seek help from a medical professional immediately.

TrueCare offers FREE PEP and PrEP guidance, and our Health Navigators are here to answer your questions. We also provide confidential consultations to individuals. Please send an email to prep@truecare.org or contact our main line (760) 736-6767 and request to talk to one of our PrEP Health Navigators. If this is a PEP emergency, please ask to be scheduled at our one of our QuickCare locations.


Is PEP the same as PrEP?

No, PEP stands for Post-Exposure Prophylaxis meaning after a potential exposure to HIV. PrEP stands for Pre-exposure prophylaxis meaning before an exposure to HIV. To learn more about PrEP, please check out our PrEP blog.

Does PEP have any side effects?

PEP is safe to use, but some people experience side effects. These can range from headache and fatigue to nausea, stomach pain and diarrhea. These side effects usually go away in a few days. Tell your health care provider about any side affects you experience, especially if they don’t go away after a short time.

How effective is PEP?

PEP is highly effective in preventing HIV if it’s taken withing 72 hours after the potential exposure. Early treatment increases the likelihood of a successful outcome.


>> HIV.gov
>> Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
>> California Department of Public Health
>> San Diego County Health & Human Services

TrueCare provides a number of health services for all ages and stages of life, from newborn to toddler, adolescent, young adult to adult and senior care, including wellness checks. Our providers are committed to quality comprehensive care with heart. Contact your local TrueCare health center today to set up your appointment. We accept anyone, regardless of their ability to pay.

The information, including but not limited to text, graphics, images, and other material contained on this website, are for informational purposes only. No material on this site is intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before undertaking a new healthcare regimen. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you read on this website.

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