PEP is available for free at all public STI/GUM Clinics and Emergency Departments, (the €100 fee might be charged –if you have no referral letter-for attendance at Emergency Departments). PEP is only given to people who meet the national guidelines for its use http://www.hpsc.ie/a-z/EMIToolkit/appendices/app7.pdf
These national guidelines help doctors decide who might be offered PEP. Some of the questions asked are;
Do you know your own HIV status?
- The person you had sex with (and the chances that person had HIV).
- What kind of sex happened (vaginal, oral or anal?).
- If the other person definitely had HIV, what was their ‘viral load’ (if this is known)?
Once a doctor has considered your risk, a decision will be made about whether PEP is provided. At the same time, you will have a series of blood tests. This makes sure that you don’t already have HIV, depending on the result, you will continue PEP.
The best place to go for PEP is your nearest STI/GUM clinic, check the list. If you need PEP over the weekend, outside of STI/GUM clinic hours or during a public holiday, the best place to go is the nearest Emergency Department of a hospital. Most are open 24 hours with some community departments open till midnight (see list ‘Where to Get PEP’). PEP is not available from GPs (family doctors) or from pharmacies.
In Emergency Departments and some STI/GUM clinics you will be given a “PEP starter pack”. This means if the doctor decides to prescribe PEP to you after the assessment, you will be given a short course of PEP for four to six days. This is not the full course. If given a PEP starter pack, you will be referred to another clinic for further assessment based on your blood results and for continuation of treatment if recommended.
Sometimes people might face obstacles when asking for PEP. The medical staff or receptionists may not know about it or may give out incorrect information such as ‘PEP is not available to the general public’.
If this happens, ask to speak to the ‘doctor on duty’ who should know about the PEP guidelines. ‘Don’t panic’ check the list for nearby options also see the support section here for helplines that you can call for help and advice.
PEP is still available during current Covid-19 restrictions. If you have had a recent exposure to HIV, it is important to take urgent action. Contact your nearest Hospital Emergency Department where PEP is available or contact your local sexual health clinic. This should be done within 72 hours (3 days) of sexual contact.