PrEP and PEPSE

What is PrEP?

Pre-exposure prophylaxis (or PrEP) is when people at very high risk for HIV take HIV medicines daily to lower their chances of getting infected.

You can take a pill on an ongoing basis before sex and continued after sex. It’s taken by someone who doesn’t have HIV, to prevent them from getting HIV. The PrEP pill is an antiretroviral drug – the same type of pill taken by someone who already has HIV to treat HIV.

Currently we can’t prescribe PrEP on the NHS in England, but we can offer advice, monitoring, blood tests and sexual health care for people taking PrEP. This can be done at our specialist centres: The Ambrose King Centre, and the Sir Ludwigg Guttman Centre (SLG). 

What is PEPSE?

PEPSE stands for post-exposure HIV prophylaxis after sexual exposure. It is a four week course of HIV medication you can take after unprotected sex or a condom accident, to reduce the chance of becoming HIV positive.

We can provide PEPSE at our specialist centres: the Ambrose King Centre and the Sir Ludwigg Guttman Centre (SLG). If our sexual health centres are shut, you can access PEPSE at your nearest emergency department

Information for people taking PrEP and PEPSE

I am thinking about taking PrEP

If you would like to talk to us about the benefits and any potential risks of taking PrEP, and how to take it safely, please make an appointment in one of our centres of excellence for a consultation and medical assessment.

I am already taking PrEP

If you are already taking PrEP, national guidelines suggest you should visit a sexual health centre for blood tests and STI testing every 3 months. Please make an appointment in one of our specialist centres.

I think I need PEPSE – what should I do?

If you think you might need PEPSE, you should attend a sexual health centre or go to your nearest emergency department (open 24 hours a day). You will be seen by a doctor who will assess the risk of HIV transmission. Your doctor will decide whether to prescribe PEPSE.

They will also take a blood test to test for HIV (to make sure you aren’t already HIV-positive), and to test your blood count, and how liver and kidneys are working, and a urine test, and arrange follow up. The final HIV test will be six weeks after you have finished taking the PEPSE.

Does PEPSE work?

Research shows that PEPSE makes infection with HIV less likely. However, PEPSE doesn’t work every time – some people who take it still become HIV positive. It can fail because the anti-HIV drugs are not active against a particular strain, or it can fail because the drugs are not taken properly.