HIV PEP (Post-exposure prophylaxis)
What is HIV PEP (Post-exposure prophylaxis)?
HIV PEP (Post-exposure prophylaxis) commonly referred to as PEP, is a short-term antiretroviral treatment used to reduce the likelihood of the HIV infection, particularly after potential exposure, either through sexual intercourse or accidental exposure. PEP is only intended for emergencies and not for routine use by those who may be exposed to HIV frequently. As such, it is not meant to replace regular use of other HIV prevention techniques, such as pre-exposure prophylaxis, observing safe measures at work for healthcare workers, or practicing safety precautions during sexual intercourse.
How long is the PEP duration?
The PEP must be administered within few days after a possible exposure to HIV. The sooner you start PEP after a potential HIV exposure, the better. It is best to start taking PEP within the first 24 hours of being exposed to HIV. The medicines must be taken for 1 month.
It is crucial to note that you will need to return to your doctor at certain times while taking PEP as well as after you have finished taking PEP for HIV testing and other tests.
Though PEP is highly effective at preventing possible HIV infection from advancing, it is not a 100% guarantee either! This only implies that you must always practice safe measures when you are on PEP.
These practices will potentially prevent you from HIV re-exposure, effectively minimizing your risks of transmitting HIV to other people if you do become infected while you are on PEP. The treatment may not work if you:
- Fail to start taking the medicines soon enough.
- Take the medicines incorrectly.
Is PEP Right for Me?
You should consider PEP if you are HIV-negative, don’t know your HIV status, and in the last few days:
- You had sexual intercourse with someone already infected with HIV.
- You had sexual intercourse with someone with unknown HIV status.
- You shared or got exposed to contaminated sharps, blade or needles.
- You were sexually assaulted.
- You experienced a work-related needle stick injury.
- You were exposed to body fluid, sores, ulcers, semen, ulcers with someone of unknown HIV status or known HIV infection.
- You should also take PEP if the condom either slipped or broke at the time of intercourse.
Before you use PEP, you should talk to your doctor regarding PEP. Those who may have established HIV infection but are not aware of it are not suitable for PEP treatment because it can enhance the risk of HIV developing resistance to the medication.
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Is HIV testing mandatory before PEP?
Before accessing any HIV treatment, testing for HIV is usually a requirement. This is because there is a chance that the patient might have been already infected. If this is the case, PEP will produce no results and your doctor may prescribe other antiretroviral medications for long-term use.
Is PEP a safe treatment?
Generally, PEP is safe. However, just like any other type of medication, it does come with some notable side effects which include:
- Muscle ache
- Feeling generally unwell
However, all these side effects are not life-threatening and can easily be managed or treated as well.
What should I expect when I contact my doctor?
During your consultation, the doctor will carefully assess your medical history as well as your HIV exposure risks.
Possibly, you may be needed to undergo blood tests to examine the health of your kidney and liver.
What’s more, depending on the risks, you may be required to take STI screening tests.
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Is it advisable to have PEP treatment every time I have unprotected intercourse?
As we previously mentioned, PEP is not recommended for people having a frequent risk of HIV exposure. Instead, it should only be used during emergencies. If you are an individual who is regularly exposed to HIV risks, you need to talk to your doctor about PrEP option to minimize your risk of contracting HIV.
Where can I go for PEP treatment?
It is imperative to note that only a qualified doctor is allowed to prescribe HIV PEP drugs. But bearing in mind that acting fast is extremely important, various emergency rooms open 24/7 that offer the initial dose. You can also seek the services of your doctor that offer HIV PEP drugs.
HIV PEP treatment can prevent the virus from taking refuge in your body before it becomes a full infection. However, it is worth noting that HIV PEP only helps to minimize the risk of HIV infection, but can’t protect you from being infected with other STIs.
Our clinic offers monitoring and support to ensure that you are taking this medication correctly for full prevention against HIV.
We use first-line, WHO and CDC-recommended treatment regimen for PEP. If conducted from the first 72 hours from exposure, this treatment can potentially minimize the risk of HIV transmission by at least 90%.
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