What to do now?


Go straight to your nearest sexual health clinic or hospital Accident and Emergency department.

It's important that you do not exceed the 72-hour time limit as PEP isn't likely to be prescribed any later than this. It's best to start PEP as soon as possible after exposure, preferably within 24 hours.

You'll need to explain to the doctor when and how you were at risk and any other relevant information (e.g. that you don’t know your partner’s HIV status but that they were from an area with high rates of HIV).

If your partner is HIV positive, the doctor will also need to know their viral load and whether they're on antiretrovirals. If the person you had sex with is living with HIV, but has been on treatment for at least six months and has an undetectable viral load, you will not need PEP.

HIV test


Before receiving PEP, you'll be asked to take an HIV test. It's essential to check that you didn’t already have HIV before this risk. This is because taking PEP if you already have HIV can cause complications for treating HIV in the future.

Sexual assault


If you're seeking PEP following a sexual assault it's important to tell the medical staff. Sexual assault can cause internal physical trauma that can make it easier for HIV to be passed on.

Sexual assault is a crime and the police are there to help you if you choose to report it. If you're concerned about going straight to the police, you might like to get some support and advice by contacting a helpline.

SurvivorsUK online helpline gives support to men who have been sexually assaulted or abused and can help you find services.

Rape Crisis helpline is open every day of the year (including bank holidays) between 12-2.30pm and 7-9.30pm on 0808 802 9999.

Why go to a sexual health clinic?


If you’ve been at risk from HIV, there is a chance you may have picked up other sexually transmitted infections or that you or your partner might need emergency contraception.

You can be checked for these confidentially at any sexual health clinic.

Consider PrEP


If you think you might be at risk of HIV again in the future, you might want to consider pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP).

PrEP is a pill you can take to protect you from HIV. It is extremely effective when taken properly, and means that you’re protecting your own HIV negative status.

You'll be able to find out if you should be on PrEP and if you're eligible for PrEP on the NHS at your local sexual health clinic.

Trans and non-binary people


Hormones are safe to take at the same time as PEP. There’s no evidence that PEP or PrEP drugs diminish the effects of hormone therapy for trans people.

There has been little research so far regarding HIV risk following genital surgeries for both trans women and trans men. Some types of lower surgeries may theoretically increase susceptibility to HIV and other STIs.

Using condoms with vaginal, frontal or anal sex will protect you from HIV and other STIs. You also might want to find out about PrEP if you think you might be at risk in the future.

If you have any concerns about your sexual health following lower surgery, it’s best to discuss them with your doctor.

CliniQ has more information on PEP/PrEP for trans and non-binary people.

What is PEP?


When people have been put at risk of HIV, PEP may prevent HIV infection after the virus has entered the body.


  • Can stop you becoming infected with HIV.
  • Must be started as soon as possible after exposure, preferably within 24 hours. It can be prescribed up to 72 hours (three days) after unprotected sex, but it's best not to wait that long.
  • Is available for free from NHS sexual health (GUM) clinics and hospital Accident and Emergency departments (A&E).
  • Involves taking anti-HIV medicines for up to four weeks. Now uses newer medication with fewer side effects.

PEP is not a cure for HIV and is not guaranteed to prevent HIV from taking hold once the virus has entered the body. Condoms remain the most efficient way of preventing the transmission of HIV and other STIs.

We're here for you


Remember, whatever happens we're here for you. If you'd like help or support, get in touch with THT Direct on 0808 802 1221.