PEP and PrEP are two bio-pharmaceutical (medicine-based) ways for people who do not have HIV to prevent HIV. There are several other ways to do this, and condoms will always provide a mainstay within these scenarios.
Post Exposure Prophylaxis – PEP
If you think you have been exposed to HIV, ‘Post-Exposure Prophylaxis’ (after-exposure protection), PEP prevents HIV acquisition if there has been an accidental exposure such as a condom breakage. PEP is a month-long course of anti-HIV drugs that can keep HIV from taking hold in your body.
You can get PEP from any sexual health clinic, The Albion Centre, or at the emergency department of all public hospitals and in all sexual health clinics.
PEP Hotline: 1800 737 669 (1800 PEP NOW)
staffed Mon-Fri 9am–9pm, Sat-Sun 8am–9pm, Public holidays 8am–9pm
The PEP Hotline is a service that provides information, assessment, and referral following a possible high risk exposure to HIV.
If you have been exposed to HIV, the sooner you start PEP the better. It must be started within 72 hours after your possible exposure to HIV.
Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis – PrEP
If you’re at risk of HIV and want to remain HIV negative, PrEP is a daily medication to protect yourself from acquiring the HIV virus. It stands for ‘Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis’ (before-exposure protection).
PrEP also provides extra reassurance to people living with HIV, that our HIV-negative partners and, lovers are protected from HIV. It can help reduce the anxiety and fear of transmitting HIV, and help reduce HIV-related stigma and discrimination in the community.
Any Australian resident with a current Medicare card, can access PrEP through the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) at a subsidised cost. Any doctor can write a prescription for PrEP which can be taken to any pharmacy for dispensing. If PrEP is accessed in this way, a PBS co-payment at the pharmacy will need to be made.
People who are not eligible for Medicare or who do not have a Medicare card, can get PrEP on a private prescription from any doctor. They have three brands to choose from (Generic Health Pty Ltd, Apotex Pty Ltd and Alphapharm Pty Ltd). This prescription can be dispensed at any community pharmacy. The cost for a private prescription is higher than for PBS-subsidised medicines.
If a person is not eligible to access PrEP through Medicare, or finds the cost of purchasing PrEP locally too high, then another option is to purchase a generic version of the drug online from a reliable overseas supplier using the Therapeutic Goods Administration’s Personal Importation Scheme. A prescription from a doctor is still required before ordering online. There are multiple overseas suppliers who will supply PrEP for import into Australia at a range of costs. The PrEP Access Now website has more information on personal importation.
PrEP does not provide any protection against sexually transmitted infections (STIs) such as gonorrhoea, chlamydia, syphilis and hepatitis C. Using condoms still provides the best protection against these STIs.