Illustrated by Ly Ngo.
By Mylanie Sanchez
Someone asked us: Is there a morning-after pill for HIV?
This is a great question! The short answer is "kinda, but not really."
There are medicines (called Post-Exposure Prophylaxis, or PEP) that help prevent HIV after someone has been exposed. Sometimes, people think of PEP as “morning-after pills for HIV,” because they can be started up to three days after being exposed to HIV — but that’s where most of the similarities end.
So, how is PEP different from the morning-after pill (a.k.a. Plan B or emergency contraception)? Unlike emergency contraception (which is just one or two pills taken over the course of one day), PEP consists of two to three different drugs that must be taken for 28 days.
Even after completing the treatment, you would need to be regularly tested for HIV for about six months after exposure.
The tricky part about all this is that many people don’t know if or when they’ve been exposed to the virus. According to the CDC, one in six people with HIV don’t even realize they’re infected. Plus, PEP is a pretty involved medical process that you really need a doctor to help monitor. It’s not something everyone can pick up at the drugstore and take after unprotected sex, “just in case.”
And, remember: If you’re sexually active, always use condoms, get tested regularly, and encourage partners to do the same. If you or your partner is living with HIV/AIDS, ask your doctor how you can manage the risk of exposure in your relationship and reduce the chances of spreading the infection.
-Mylanie at Planned Parenthood