There are medications that may help prevent HIV, even after possible exposure including unprotected sex with an HIV-positive person. PEP (post-exposure prophylaxis) means taking medicines to prevent HIV after exposure. However, studies show that such medications must be started within 72 hours of exposure. After this, its efficacy reduces significantly.


PEP is highly effective if taken within a day of unprotected sex. In such cases, these pills can help prevent infection in most cases. However, it is important to remember that PEP is not a substitute for usual measures like avoiding high-risk behaviours such as not using protection. It is more like an emergency measure. PEP cannot always compensate for high risk behaviour. Nonetheless, it is one of the best emergency-protective methods.

Thus, if you think you have been exposed to HIV, be it from sharing needles or having unprotected sex with someone you do not know, contact us urgently to start taking medications immediately, as every hour counts.

Understanding HIV risk

If one has unprotected sex and fears that one has been exposed to HIV, there are few things to understand. First, studies show that a single act of unprotected sex may not pose a significant risk. Generally, even if a person had unprotected sex with HIV positive person, still the risk of catching the infection is less than 1%. However, the risk is much higher, about 15%, if using contaminated needles. That being said, it is highly recommended to consider PEP after any possible HIV exposure.

Researchers think that such a low risk of infection may be explained by a low viral load in some of those living with HIV. Additionally, the risk of catching an infection may be higher if a person is living with another STD and thus a non-intact mucous membrane.

Even if HIV has entered the person’s body, it needs some time to enter cells in which it can start producing its copies. This is the reason why PEP is highly effective when taken within 24 hours of exposure.

However, once HIV has started producing its copies, it can make millions of copies every hour. Since it can multiply so quickly, preventing its further multiplication is challenging after 72 hours. After about three days, it becomes fully established inside the body.

Who must consider HIV PEP?

PEP is not for regular use; it is an emergency measure. Moreover, it only works when medications are taken within 72 hours. Examples of some emergencies in which PEP may help:

  • Breakage or slipping of the protection sheath when having sex
  • Sex with a person known to be HIV positive
  • Sex with someone who has risky behaviour and whose HIV status is unclear
  • Sharing contaminated needles
  • Exposure to the blood or semen through an open cut, wound, sores, or ulcers
  • Sexual assault

PEP may also be used to prevent HIV due to occupational exposure, like exposure to blood in an operating theatre and more.

hiv pep

Getting started with PEP

HIV PEP is started based on the patient’s history. Anyone who thinks they were probably exposed to HIV can ask for PEP. No test is required to start PEP, as no test can detect HIV in such an early stage. However, if PEP is given within 72 hours, it can help prevent infection in 90% of cases.

PEP medications have been well-tested for years, and they are safe. These medications are also used to treat HIV infection. Since PEP therapy is for such a short term, it would rarely cause any side effects, but it can help prevent HIV from taking hold of your body and start multiplying.

Generally, PEP therapy is given for 28 days. In most cases, doctors would prescribe one pill a day, though in some cases, they might prescribe two pills a day.

Are there any blood tests done?

Yes, doctors would carry out some tests like rapid HIV test to ensure that person is HIV negative when initiating the therapy. Additionally, doctors may also recommend an STD panel to exclude other infections. Further, doctors need to test liver and kidney function.

Doctors would not waste time testing or waiting for the results of all the tests, except the rapid HIV test. Instead, they would initiate PEP immediately.

Additionally, doctors would also carry out HIV tests one month after the therapy and again after three months. These tests are essential to know if therapy has worked or not. These tests would also provide peace of mind to the patients, as they would understand that PEP has helped them.


So, if you think you have been exposed to HIV, get in touch with our Sexual Health Clinic in Kuala Lumpur immediately, as HIV prevention through PEP is a race against the time.

What our customers are saying about us

dia mohamed
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