PEP, or post-exposure prophylaxis, is a drug that lowers the risk for HIV after someone has sex or shares needles. It works better the sooner you take it, ideally within 24 hours. You can get PEP up to 72 hours after. Some people think of PEP as the morning after pill for HIV, but you actually need to take it for a whole month.
You can get a prescription for PEP at a clinic. Some clinics, like l’Actuel, have more experience with PEP, so it can be easier to get it there.
Should I get PEP?
Only a doctor can tell you if you should get PEP. They mostly prescribe it for things that are a high risk for HIV. These are:
- anal or vaginal sex without a condom
- anal or vaginal sex where a condom breaks or falls off
- Sharing vaginal or anal sex toys
- Sharing a needle
- Accidentally getting pricked by a needle
These aren’t high risk if your partner is taking treatment for HIV and has an undetectable viral load. This means there’s very little of the virus in their body. It’s almost impossible for someone with an undetectable viral load to pass HIV to someone else.
Things like oral sex or anal or vaginal sex where a condom doesn’t break or fall off have a low risk for HIV. Doctors rarely give PEP after these, but it can sometimes be comforting to ask.
If you’re worried about another situation, you can learn more about HIV risk, text us, or call 811 to ask to a nurse at Info-Santé.
Where can I get PEP?
A few clinics may have more experience with PEP:
- l’Actuel near Beaudry Metro
- Clinique Médicale Quartier Latin near Baudry Metro (for gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men)
- Emergency rooms and sexual health clinics
Any doctor or clinic can prescribe it, though. You can call 811 to ask to a nurse where to go or search for a clinic near you.
How much does PEP cost?
If you’re on Quebec’s Public Prescription Drug Plan, you only need to pay the monthly maximum for PEP. This is $93.08 at most. The public plan covers the whole cost if you’re under 18. It also covers it if you’re a full-time student who’s under 25, unmarried, and living with your parents.
Many private insurances also cover it. It helps to ask them before in case you ever need it.
If they don’t cover it or you don’t have health insurance, PEP can cost $900 or more.
What’s getting PEP like?
PEP is 28 days of pills. It’s important to follow the directions and take all of them to lower your risk. Many sexual health clinics and emergency rooms give starter packs. These have a few pills so you can start right away. Then you need to pick up the rest at a pharmacy and pay for it.
When you get a prescription, a doctor or nurse will probably want to do an HIV test. This is to make sure that people don’t already have HIV from something else. It doesn’t mean someone might have HIV from a few days before.