If administered promptly, the treatment may prevent HIV infection after the virus has entered the body.

In this case "promptly" means within 72 hours - and as soon as possible after exposure. After 72 hours PEP will not be available.

It is not a ‘cure’ for HIV; the way it works is to prevent the virus from entering cells in the body, thus halting infection. It isn’t 100% effective and the longe an infected person waits before having treatment, the less effective it is.

Post Exposure Prophylaxis is a 28-day course of anti-HIV drugs. It could stop you – or someone you’ve had sex with – getting HIV after unsafe sex or if a condom breaks.

There are criteria for who is prescribed PEP and it is a doctor who will make the final decision wheter a person meets the criteria. 

An HIV test, both before and after treatment will be required.

Got 2 minutes? We made a film about PEP – click the image below:

To have the best chance of it being effective you need to start taking PEP as soon as possible after the possible exposure to HIV and certainly within 72 hours.

PEP is not a substitute for wearing a condom!

Information taken from NAM (National AIDS Map) website.

For full details details about PEP click here.

(Link checked as correct on the 16/06/2014 by SA – next update due 16/12/14)