PEPSE stands for Post-Exposure Prophylaxis following Sexual Exposure. It is a short course of treatment given to anyone who may have been exposed to HIV because they either haven’t used a condom or the condom has split. The treatment reduces the risk of becoming HIV positive if started within 72 hours of sexual exposure.

If you have had unprotected sex or your condom has split and your partner is HIV positive / high risk of being HIV positive or if you have been sexually assaulted, you should seek advice about PEPSE as soon as possible and within 72 hours.


If you're HIV negative, you may be able to take pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) medicine to reduce your risk of getting the virus.

PrEP is available for some people who are at high risk of HIV infection – for example, those whose partner is HIV positive.

It's available as a tablet, and is to be taken before you have sex and are exposed to HIV.


HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) is a virus that damages the cells in your immune system and weakens your ability to fight everyday infections and disease.

There's currently no cure for HIV, but with early diagnosis and the availability of very effective drug treatments, most people with the virus can go on to live a long and healthy life.

The most common way of getting HIV in the UK is through having anal or vaginal sex without a condom.

Other ways of getting HIV include:
• sharing needles, syringes or other injecting equipment
• transmission from mother to baby during pregnancy, birth or breastfeeding

The chance of getting HIV through oral sex is very low and will be dependent on many things, such as whether you receive or give oral sex and the oral hygiene of the person giving the oral sex.

If you have been diagnosed with HIV, you will need to attend clinics for regular check-ups. You will need to have regular blood tests to monitor the infection and will receive support to help you and those important to you to deal with your diagnosis. You will need to receive ongoing treatment for HIV which is provided for free in Sunderland Sexual Health by our specialist team.

HIV home testing

HIV homes testing kits are available in many areas of the country. To see if you are eligible for a free home testing kit visit​ and complete the eligibility checker.

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