If you are HIV negative and think you may have been exposed to HIV during sex, you should go to the emergency department of your nearest hospital or local after-hours clinic, or contact your GP, and ask for PEP – a short course anti-HIV medication.
PEP is free if you are eligible for funded healthcare in Aotearoa New Zealand and meet one of more of these PHARMAC criteria:
- You definitely know that the person you had sex with is living with HIV and has an unknown or detectable viral load.
- The person you had sex with doesn’t know their HIV status and is from either a high HIV prevalence country or a high HIV risk group. If you are not sure of their status
- You have shared intravenous injecting equipment with someone living with HIV
- You have had non-consensual sex and your doctor thinks PEP would be suitable
In other situations, you may need to pay to access it. Ask your doctor about self-funding – they can still write a prescription and you can pay for your own PEP pills at the pharmacy (approximately $15 plus pharmacy markup).
PEP is most effective if it is taken within 72 hours of exposure to HIV, but the sooner you can take it after having unprotected sex, the more likely it is to be effective.
There are cases where PEP hasn’t worked, even when it has been taken within the recommended time frame, so it’s best to think about it as a backstop that’s there when things don’t go to plan, rather than a way of keeping safe for sure.