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HIV Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP) is a type of antiretroviral treatment for HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) that is administered to individuals who have likely been exposed to HIV during sexual intercourse (post-exposure). It must be administered within 72 hours after exposure to reduce the risk of developing HIV infection.
HIV PEP is considered as an emergency treatment compared to HIV Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP), which, which is a preventive measure to reduce one’s chances of contracting HIV during sexual intercourse. In other words, HIV PEP is taken after intercourse while PrEP before intercourse.
If you are exposed accidentally to unknown sexual partner, you must take this medication immediately within 24 hours for 1 month.
During HIV PEP treatment, you will be advised to take your medications once or twice daily for 1 month. Please note that being on treatment will not protect you from new exposure to HIV; you must continue to use protection such as condoms during sexual intercourse.
Using a condom also protects you from other STIs (sexually-transmitted diseases) such as chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis. You will be asked to visit your doctor for a follow-up check after 3 months post-exposure to have a HIV test done to confirm negative status.
You may consider undergoing HIV PEP if you have:
Had sexual intercourse with a HIV-positive individual or an individual who may be HIV-positive.
Been exposed to bodily fluids such as semen and blood from an individual who may be HIV-positive.
Found broken or slipped condom during sexual intercourse.
Been sexually assaulted.
If you suspect you may have been exposed to HIV, you are highly encouraged to consider taking HIV PEP to reduce your chance of contracting the virus.
While HIV PEP is recommended to be taken within 72 hours of sexual intercourse, it should be taken i.e. within 24 hours if possible. When administered early, HIV PEP is able to reduce the patient’s risk of being transmitted HIV by more than 90%.
Please note that HIV PEP will not work for individuals already infected with HIV.
Patients will be advised to undergo a baseline HIV test prior to being administered HIV PEP. You will also require blood tests to check your liver and renal function as well as any possible preexisting conditions.
HIV PEP is regarded as a safe treatment method for the prevention of HIV infection upon exposure.
As HIV PEP involves oral medication, patients may experience minor side effects like nausea, headaches and lethargy. These will go away after some time. However, if pain or symptoms persist and worsen, seek help immediately from your doctor.