All three contain antiretroviral medicines in different combination for different purposes:
PrEP is a pill that has 2 anti-HIV medicines taken daily to prevent HIV for HIV-negative people. PrEP is taken before you think you might be exposed to HIV.
PEP is taken within 72 hours after exposure to HIV (e.g. after rape) for 28 days to prevent HIV. PeP is taken after you think you have been exposed to HIV.
ART is a 3-medicine treatment for HIV-positive people that reduces the levels of HIV in a person’s body. ART helps the body stay strong and helps it fight off infections and other illnesses.
Taking PrEP is a choice. An HIV prevention choice that is person-centred. If a person is HIV-negative and feel they are at risk of getting HIV, they can choose to take PrEP for as long as they need to. However, if a person is HIV-positive, they have no choice and have to take ARVs for the rest of their lives in order to be healthy.
HIV-negative people who take PrEP every day can lower their risk of HIV by more than 90%.
PrEP should be taken once a day at approximately the same time. It can be taken within a few hours of the normal time - as long as only one pill is taken per day.
It takes up to 7 days to be fully protected. PrEP must be taken daily!
PrEP has been shown to be safe.
PrEP is also safe with alcohol and drugs, as well as contraceptives and other medicine.
Some people may experience mild side effects when they start PrEP.
The most common side effects include:
In most people, these side effects go away after a few weeks.
No. PrEP does not cause HIV. The medications in PrEP work to prevent HIV.
No. Using condoms is still the best way to prevent HIV infection. PrEP is an extra HIV prevention option and where possible, should be used in combination with condoms.
No. PrEP does not prevent STIs or pregnancy.
Using condoms correctly and consistently is still the best way to protect against HIV, STIs and unwanted pregnancy.
PrEP should not be used as HIV treatment. HIV-positive people need a combination of three ARVs for treatment, given by the healthcare provider, according to their needs.
PrEP is for anyone who is HIV-negative and feels they might be at risk of getting HIV. If you are unsure about taking PrEP, why not try going through this roadmap that can help you decide whether PrEP is a good option for you.
A person should decide for themselves, based on their life experience, if PrEP or PEP is a good option for them.
It is very important to remember that PrEP is taken BEFORE exposure to HIV, while PEP is taken AFTER exposure to HIV.
Currently in South Africa, PrEP is being provided through a limited number of service delivery sites. If you feel you are at risk of getting HIV, and want to find out more about PrEP, search for your nearest PrEP provider using the PrEP finder.