PEP FAQ

What is PEP?

PEP stands for post-exposure prophylaxis; it is a medicine to be taken after you may have been exposed HIV. PEP must be started within 3 days (72 hours), but the sooner you start the better. If you are prescribed PEP, you'll need to take it once or twice daily for 28 days.   

Is PEP right for me?

That is something you decide with your provider. PEP may be right for you if you are HIV negative, and you may have been exposed to HIV during sex, shared needles, syringes, or other drug injection equipment, or following a sexual assault. PEP must be started within 72 hours of the potential exposure!

Does insurance cover PEP?

The short answer is yes, but like all things insurance related out of pocket costs may vary. You may have head that PEP is very expensive, or think that you can't afford PEP. Don't worry! If you are struggling with out-of-pocket costs contact us. We can help you connect with patient assistance programs and providers that can help make PEP affordable. 

What if I don't have insurance or I'm not a U.S. citizen?

Having insurance makes things a lot easier, but don't worry. PrEP is available regardless of your immigration status or whether or not you have insurance. Contact us so we can help you figure out the means of access that is best for you! 

What about side-effects?

You may hear that PEP will make you very sick, but the medications used in PEP are known to be well tolerated by most people. If you have concerns about side-effects speak to your provider or pharmacist about it, especially if you are pregnant or nursing. Hearing something your not sure about, and want a second opinion? Call us! We'll connect you with an HIV specialist who will be able to answer any questions you might have. 

Can I take PEP every time I have unprotected sex ?

PEP it is intended for emergencies. If you are exposed to HIV frequently, you may want to consider PrEP. 

Are there different kinds of PEP?

You may hear the terms "nPEP" (non-Occupational PEP) or "oPEP" (occupational PEP). What makes these things different is the circumstance of the potential exposure. For oPEP, the potential exposure happened at work, but nPEP is for potential exposures outside of work. You don't have to worry about nPEP and oPEP; however, PEP is the same in either case. If you were potentially exposed to HIV at work let us know, and we can help you work through the insurance and other protocols that might come into play. 

  

PEP 101

 
 

PEP in Maine

Step 1: Find a Provider

There are 3 broad categories of places to get PEP:

Your Primary Care Provider (PCP): If you're comfortable, you should check in with your primary care provider. Not comfortable or not available? There are many other excellent resources. 

Community and clinical resources listed below: Any of the places listed on our provider page can help you with PEP.

Emergency or Urgent Care services: Can screen you for a PEP prescription, but some people experience resistance here. If you aren't getting the help you need, don't be afraid to get a second opinion or to get linked to care! 

You need to start PEP within 72 hours (3 days) of exposure, so it is very important to reach out ASAP. There are many places to get PEP and multiple ways to pay for it. This site and our team is here to help you through this and get your treatment started in time. 

Step 2: HIV Testing

PEP patients should be tested for HIV before and after taking PEP. However, PEP should not be delayed if HIV testing or results are not immediately available.

Your PCP can perform these tests, but if you aren’t comfortable using your PCP, or concerned about cost the providers in the clinical service providers section can test you for free or low cost, even without insurance.

In addition to HIV testing, you may also want to screen for other STIs like syphilis, chlamydia, and gonorrhea following possible HIV exposure.  Your PCP can also perform these tests, but some people prefer to do their sexual health screenings elsewhere, due to privacy or cost. Whatever the reason is, see our clinical and sexual health providers section. 

NOTE: While you should not delay getting tested for STIs, the timeline for testing for STIs following exposure varies. Ask your PCP or another provider about how long you should wait to get tested for different STIs based on when you believe you might have been exposed.

 

Step 3: Pay for PEP

Insurance

PEP is covered by most insurance plans, but out of pocket costs can vary. There is no one size fits all solution when it comes to coverage. Even with insurance, co-pays and deductibles may make PEP seem unaffordable. We can connect you with programs that can help pay for the medication so reach out if you are concerned about the cost of PEP. 

If you are prescribed PEP following a sexual assault. . .

The Maine Victims' Compensation Fund is designed to cover the cost of medical forensic treatment following a sexual assault. This includes a 3-5 day PEP starter pack.

 

Additional PEP reimbursements are also available through the fund, but requires that a police report be filed and cooperation with the police investigation. 

For additional support, please see the information about the Sexual Assault Response Services of Southern Maine (SARSM), or this resource from Maine Coalition Against Sexual Assault. 

If you were exposed at work. . .

If you are exposed to HIV at work you should be able to get assistance getting a prescription through your employer, especially if you work in a healthcare profession. If you work in the healthcare profession, you may be put on PrEP temporarily until the HIV status of the patient you were exposed to is known.

Payment Assistance Programs

In addition to providing financial support for PrEP co-pays, Patient Assistance Programs like the Patient Access Network (PAN), the Patient Advocate Foundation (PAF), and Good Days offer financial assistance for PEP co-pays.

 

The Patient Access Network Foundation's HIV Treatment & Prevention Program →

The Patient Advocate Foundation's Co-Pay Relief Program → 

Good Days' HIV and AIDS Treatment & Prevention Program→

Resources

175 Lancaster Street, Portland, ME

1-800-871-7741

SARSSM is a Portland-based organization that provides free services to survivors of sexual assault. In addition to running their phone/text line and online chat service, SARSSM helps survivors report rape and assault to police, navigate hospital services, and connect with local sexual health resources.

Sexual Assault Services of Southern Maine

To speak to a trained SARSSM representative see their contact page. Representatives are available via chat, text, or phone.  

The CDC's PEP Basics Guide is just one segment of the CDC's HIV Basics module. This resource provides more clinical information on PEP as well as tools for HIV risk reduction.

CDC PEP Basics→

HIV Guidelines provides a wealth of information on HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment. Of note, their sections on PEP and PrEP are in-depth and provide crucial clinical information for both patients and providers.  

HIV Guidelines