If someone (e.g. your sex partner) has run a real risk of getting HIV, he or she can get a PEP treatment. PEP stands for Post-Exposure Prophylaxis. This course of treatment with HIV medicines must be started as soon as possible after the person has run a risk of contracting HIV (preferably within two hours and in any case within 72 hours at most), so that the virus will not have had a chance to establish itself in the body. The treatment lasts one month. It is very likely that PEP can prevent your partner from becoming HIV positive. Those who take PEP usually consider it to be very heavy because they have almost no time to think about it and because the HIV medicines are apt to produce side effects in the first weeks. You can get PEP at the local health authorities (GGDs) and, during the hours when those are closed, at hospitals that treat HIV. It is a good idea to call first to find out where you can go.

When will be PEP prescribed?
Your partner has run a risk if the two of you have had unprotected sexual contact. However, if you have had an undetectable viral load for at least half a year and if neither of you has any other STIs, then your partner has not run any real risk and PEP will not be prescribed. If you are not using HIV medicines or if your virus is not being effectively suppressed (i.e. if you have a measurable viral load) and if you have had unprotected contact, then your partner can get a PEP treatment.

Often difficult to stick with it
A PEP treatment will also involve a series of blood tests: during the treatment itself there will be tests of the liver functions, while at the start of the treatment, after three months and finally after six months, there will be tests for HIV and hepatitis C. Many people find a PEP treatment very heavy: they often have problems with side effects such as nausea and yellow eyes. It is often difficult to motivate people to stick with their PEP treatment for an entire month. Sometimes someone will say after two weeks: ‘I’m going to take the risk; I can’t take these side effects.’ In such cases, people start looking for excuses: ‘Did I really need to start that treatment?’ While I can understand that mentality, prior to starting the treatment, the person discussed the situation with a doctor who determined that he or she actually did run a real risk of infection. It is good if the person can manage to stick with the treatment for an entire month.
Loek Elsenburg, HIV nurse


PrEP (Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis) is the preventive use of HIV medicines to prevent you from getting HIV. That means it can be an alternative – or a supplement - to condom use.


Hiv Vereniging Nederland

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020 6 160 160
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020 689 25 77

For questions about living with HIV. Available monday, tuesday and thursday from 2 PM till 10 PM

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