What is the Difference Between PEP and PrEP

The key difference between PEP and PrEP is that PEP is post-exposure prophylaxis, where people take a short course of HIV medicines soon after possible exposure to HIV to prevent the virus from taking hold of the body, while PrEp is pre-exposure prophylaxis where people who do not have HIV take HIV medicine to reduce the risk.

PEP and PrEP are two medical methods to prevent HIV infection. Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is a dangerous virus that attacks the immune system of humans. If HIV infection is not treated, it can lead to acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). It started in Central Africa in the 1800s and spread across the world. It has three stages: acute, chronic and AIDS. Learning the basics about HIV can keep people healthy and prevent HIV transmission.

CONTENTS

1. Overview and Key Difference
2. What is PEP  
3. What is PrEP
4. Similarities – PEP and PrEP
5. PEP vs PrEP in Tabular Form
6. Summary – PEP vs PrEP

What is PEP?

PEP stands for post-exposure prophylaxis. In this medical procedure, people take a short course of HIV medicines soon after possible exposure to HIV. It is done to prevent the virus from taking hold of the body. PEP is for people who have already been exposed to HIV. This medical method is only for emergency situations. PEP must start within 72 hours after exposure to HIV. PEP can be prescribed if a person thinks he or she has been exposed to HIV during sex, shared needles or drug preparation equipment with an infected person or was sexually assaulted by an infected person. Moreover, PEP may also be given to a health care worker after possible exposure to HIV at the workplace.

Figure 01: PEP Medicine

PEP medications (tenofovir, emtricitabine and raltegravir or dolutegravir) should be taken for 28 days. The person will have to meet the health care provider during and after taking PEP. He or she also has to take an HIV screening test and other testings.  Some people may have side effects like nausea. Furthermore, PEP medicines may interact with other drugs such as acyclovir, adefovir, aldesleukin, alpelisib, amikacin liposome, etc.

What is PrEP?

PrEp stands for pre-exposure prophylaxis, where people who do not have HIV take HIV medicine to reduce the risk. PrEp is for people without HIV but who are at very high risk of getting the infection. This includes people who have positive partners, have multiple partners, and share needles or other equipment to inject drugs. PrEp is very effective when taken daily.

Figure 02: PrEP Medicine – Truvada

PrEp reduces the risk of contracting HIV from sex by 90%, and it reduces the risk of contracting HIV from injecting drugs by 70%. PrEP medications include truvada and descovy. PrEp does not protect against other sexually transmitted diseases (STD). The possible side effect of PrEp is nausea. Moreover, a person who is taking PrEP must have an HIV test every three months while taking PrEP.

What are the Similarities Between PEP and PrEP?

  • PEP and PrEP are two medical methods to prevent HIV infection.
  • Both methods use medicines that decrease HIV amount in the body.
  • These methods use medicines that enhance the body’s immunity.
  • They do not give protection against other sexually transmitted diseases (STD).

What is the Difference Between PEP and PrEP?

PEP refers to post-exposure prophylaxis, where people take a short course of HIV medicines soon after possible exposure to HIV to prevent the virus from taking hold of the body, while PrEp refers to pre-exposure prophylaxis, where people who do not have HIV take HIV medicine to reduce the risk. So, this is the key difference between PEP and PrEP. Furthermore, PEP medicines include tenofovir, emtricitabine and raltegravir or dolutegravir. On the other hand, PrEP medicines include truvada (emitricitabine and tenofovir disoproxil fumarate) and descovy (emitricitabine and tenofovir alafenamid).

The below infographic lists the differences between PEP and PrEP in tabular form for side by side comparison.

Summary – PEP vs PrEP

HIV virus targets the immune system and weakens people’s defence against many infections. PEP and PrEP are two medical methods to prevent HIV infection. PEP is post-exposure prophylaxis where people take a short course of HIV medicines soon after possible exposure to HIV to prevent the virus from taking hold of the body. PrEp is pre-exposure prophylaxis where people who do not have HIV take HIV medicine to reduce the risk. Thus, this summarizes the difference between PEP and PrEP.