Post-Exposure Prophylaxis

What is HIV Post-Exposure Prophylaxis?

PillsHIV post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) is the use of antiretroviral drugs as soon as possible after a high-risk exposure to HIV, to reduce (but not eliminate) the possibility of HIV infection. PEP is not the morning after pill for HIV. PEP is a four-week program of two or three antiretroviral medications, several times a day. The medications have serious side effects that can make it difficult to finish the program.


Treatment should be started promptly, preferably within the first several hours after an exposure. It should be administered within 48 hours of a high-risk exposure (not to exceed 72 hours). After 72 hours PEP is considerably less effective in preventing HIV infection. The sooner PEP is administered, the more effective it is.

What is a high-risk exposure?

PEP is only recommended for high risk exposures to HIV that have occurred within the past 72 hours. A high risk exposure would include:
• Unprotected vaginal or anal sex with known (or likely) HIV positive partner.
• Injection drug use needle exposure
• Needlestick or other puncture/cut from a sharp
• Sexual assault survivor
• Non-intact skin (open cut or wound) or mucus membrane (eyes, nose, mouth, etc) contact with blood

If a high-risk exposure has occurred, what should I do?

In the case of a high-risk exposure to HIV, the individual should be referred immediately to one of the locations below or any hospital emergency room (ER). Clinic or ER staff will determine the severity of the exposure and if the administration of PEP is necessary.


Medical professionals who are unsure if PEP should be administered should call the National Clinicians’ Post-Exposure Prophylaxis Hotline (PEPline) at 1-888-448-4911 for consultation. Hotline staff will help determine if PEP should be administered, and recommend a treatment regimen specific to the exposure and the source history (if available).

PEP Resources in San Francisco

The following locations offer PEP consultation, and can also administer antiretroviral medications if necessary.


San Francisco City Clinic
356 7th Street
(between Folsom and Harrison)
San Francisco, CA 94103

(415) 487-5538 PEP Hotline


Clinic walk-in hours for PEP services are:

  • Monday, Wednesday, Friday 8:00am – 4:00pm
  • Tuesday 1:00pm – 5:00pm
  • Thursday 1:00pm – 3:00pm

City Clinic offers testing, counseling and prescription for PEP medication within 72 hours of a possible exposure to HIV. You can call (415) 487-5538 to discuss your situation with a clinician before coming to the clinic for services. Once you arrive at the clinic, you will meet with a clinician to discuss available medications, be provided counseling with a trained Health Worker, have blood drawn for HIV and STD tests, and receive a schedule for follow-up appointments at 1 month, 3 months and 6 months.



San Francisco General Hospital, Urgent Care (Urgent Care is next to main bldg.)

1001 Potrero Avenue

San Francisco, CA 94110

(415) 206-8052

  • Monday – Friday 10:00am – 9:00pm
  • Weekends & Holidays 10:00am – 5:00pm



San Francisco General Hospital, Emergency Room

1001 Potrero Avenue

San Francisco, CA 94110

(415) 206-8111

  • 24-hours a day, every day
  • Go to San Francisco General Hospital Urgent Care first, if open. See hours above.