Taking PEP

It’s important to take PEP as prescribed, every day for the full month course.

If you do miss a dose, it is often better to take the pills a bit late rather than not at all. Check with your doctor, but don’t double your next dose.

While you are taking and after you finish PEP, you will have to make appointments for follow-up tests for HIV (and other infections), including an appointment for a final test 3 months after the possible exposure. These tests are to make sure that the PEP has worked and that you have not become HIV-positive. Talk to your doctor about when these tests should occur.

Does PEP have side effects?

Some people experience no side-effects at all, but some people do. Side-effects are usually only mild to moderate, and include headaches, nausea, diarrhoea and vomiting. They are usually worse in the first week of taking PEP and reduce over time. The side-effects will certainly stop once you have finished your month course of PEP.

Talk to the doctor or nurse that prescribed you PEP if you feel you can’t tolerate the side-effects or if is anything else happens that concerns you. They may be able to change the type of PEP drugs being prescribed so that you can keep taking it with fewer or less severe side-effects.

How can I remember to take my PEP?

Here are a few tips that may help you remember to take PEP each day for the month:

  • Set a daily alarm or reminder on your mobile phone to remind you to take your medications.
  • Take your drugs at the same time each day (e.g., after breakfast, after dinner).
  • Put your PEP drugs near something you use daily, as a reminder.
  • Take your medications at the same time you brush your teeth – and place the medications near your toothbrush so you will notice them.
  • Keep a post-it-note attached to your fridge or noticeboard with the letter ‘P’ on it; this will be a discreet reminder to you to take your drugs.
  • If you are planning a big night out, carry enough of your PEP drugs to take in case you don’t make it home.
  • Get someone you trust to remind you to take your medications.

Taking other drugs while you are on PEP

PEP can interact with other drugs (including other prescription drugs, supplements and vitamins) and change the way the PEP drugs work. Taking recreational drugs while on PEP can be risky. Recreational drugs can have severe side-effects in combination with some of the PEP drugs. Talk to the doctor or nurse who prescribes you PEP about any other prescription or recreational drugs you may be taking or planning to take.

If you wish to take recreational drugs while on PEP, talk to the doctor who prescribed you PEP.

Want to talk to someone?

If you have any questions about PEP while you’re taking it, such as side-effects or other clinical questions, it would be best to speak to your doctor or clinic.

You don’t have to do it alone. If you want to talk to someone about how you’re doing emotionally while you are taking PEP, you could talk to a partner or a friend you trust, or you could contact:

Q Life
(National online and telephone counselling and referral service for people of diverse sex, genders and sexualities)
Free call: 1800 184 527

AIDS Councils or LGBT Health Organisations can also be a good source of information.