What to do if you think you have been exposed to HIV

If you think you have been exposed to the HIV virus, anti-HIV medication called PEP (post-exposure prophylaxis) may stop you becoming infected.

Emergency HIV drugs

If you think you may have been exposed to HIV within the last 72 hours (three days), you may benefit from a four-week course of anti-HIV medication known as post exposure prophylaxis (PEP). It is only recommended following higher risk exposure, particularly where the sexual partner is known to be HIV positive.

For it to be effective, the PEP medication must be started within 72 hours of coming into contact with the virus. The quicker PEP is started the better, ideally within hours of coming into contact with HIV. The longer the wait, the less chance of it being effective.

PEP may have serious side effects and is not guaranteed to work. The treatment involves taking the same drugs prescribed to people who have tested positive for HIV.

Who to contact if you think you have been exposed

If you are concerned that you have been exposed to HIV, immediately contact your local accident and emergency (A&E) department, GUM (genitourinary medicine) or sexual health clinic.

The doctor or nurse there will ask you several questions to try to find out whether you could benefit from treatment.

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