According to the statistics released by HIV Prevention England and the Department of Health and Social care, trans people are more likely to become HIV-positive than cisgender people. This can be for many reasons, including lack of access to services and information and barriers to prevention methods. One of methods all trans people should be aware of is PEP. 

What is PEP? 

PEP is an emergency medication that you can take that can prevent HIV if you think you have been exposed to it. PEP (post-exposure prophylaxis) shouldn’t be confused with PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) which is a regular medication you can take to prevent HIV.  

When should I access PEP? 

  • If you didn’t use any HIV prevention methods 
  • If your prevention methods failed 
  • You had unprotected sex with someone you know is HIV-positive  
  • Used or injured by a HIV infected needle. 

How does PEP work? 

If you think you have been exposed to HIV you must start PEP treatment within 72 hours of being in contact with the virus. You will be given a Truvada pill and two tables of raltegravir. The earlier you start PEP the more effective it is.  

How do I take PEP? 

You will be instructed by a medical practitioner about how to take PEP but you should take the full course (Truvada and raltegravir) for 28 days. 

It’s important to note: 

  • Don’t skip a dose 
  • Take PEP for the full 28 days 
  • Don’t double dose (if you forget to take a dose) 
  • If you miss a dose, take it as soon as you remember if it’s within 24 hours 
  • If you miss PEP doses for 48 hours, you will have to stop taking it. 

Are there any side effects? 

Often there are no side effects and of there are, they are often mild, so don’t let it put you off taking PEP if you need it. Some side effects can include: 

  • Nausea 
  • Headaches 
  • Vomiting 
  • Diarrhoea. 

Where can I get PEP? 

As PEP is an emergency medication it will be prescribed to you by a medical professional. 

You can get PEP at: 

  • CliniQ also provides a PEP service for trans people. 

It’s important to note that GPs often won’t prescribe PEP, so visit one of these options to get PEP within the 72 hour window period. 

Further reading and advice 

For further information about sexual health for trans people, including services and testing, visit CliniQ.

For further HIV information and statistics both in the UK and worldwide in relation to trans people, visit NAM aidsmap.

For further advice about trans sexual healthcare including the THT Direct helpline, visit Terrence Higgins Trust.

To speak to people who may be going through the same thing as you or looking for the same information, visit the LGBT HERO Forums to find help, advice and to share your story.