HIV Post-Exposure Prophylaxis / Prevention
Worried about exposure to HIV?
Unprotected sexual intercourse, or incidents of condom breaks and slips, can be a source of great anxiety. When there is unprotected sexual contact, it may be useful for the persons involved to consider the use of HIV Post-Exposure Prophylaxis ( HIV PEP ) to reduce the risk of catching HIV.
HIV Post-exposure Prophylaxis ( HIV PEP )
HIV PEP refers to the use of anti-HIV medications to prevent or reduce the risk of getting infected with HIV after a risky encounter. While the actual risk of HIV infection varies depending on the type of exposure and likelihood of infection in the source, most guidelines on reducing HIV risk after exposure agree that the following situations may warrant consideration of using HIV PEP:
- unprotected sex with known HIV infected persons
- unprotected sex with high risk partners eg. commercial sex workers, IV drug users who practice needle-sharing, partners of known HIV infected persons.
- condom slip / condom break / condom rupture / condom tear ( with high risk partners )
- victims of rape or sexual assault
The usual time frame for use of HIV PEP is 72 hours. However, it is likely that the earlier the medications are started, the better the chances of preventing infection. Hence, patients are advised to contact us as soon as they are aware of the exposure. ( Please call 6251 5512 or SMS/WhatsApp 9662 5512 )
How is PEP taken?
There are different types of medications which can be taken for HIV post-exposure prophylaxis ( PEP ). In general, medications are taken orally once or twice a day, for a duration of about 1 month. There is usually no need for any drastic diet or lifestyle changes while on the medications but should side effects occur, our doctor will advise you accordingly. Also, if you have any pre-existing medication conditions, or need to take any other medications while on PEP, do speak with our doctor.
What are the side effects?
Some of the common side effects include headaches, diarrhoea, nausea and vomiting. More serious side effects are rare, but may include a drop in the red blood cells or inflammation in the kidney or liver. This explains the need for some basic pre- and post-medication blood tests. Remember to let our doctor know if you have any pre-existing medical conditions.
Does taking PEP make me immune to HIV while I’m on it?
No. Unsafe sex and other risky behaviour while on PEP may allow more HIV into your body, increasing the chance that PEP will fail. We advise against taking further risks even when you are on PEP medication.
So PEP may not always work?
That’s correct. PEP can fail if you happen to catch a resistant strain of HIV, or if it is not taken properly or not started soon enough. Our doctor will discuss your situation with you and work with you to decide if the risk of infection justifies the cost and potential side effects of PEP.
What happens if PEP fails? Will i be worse off than if I have not tried PEP?
No. Use of PEP, if taken according to guidelines, has not been shown to encourage resistant strains of HIV. However, if PEP has failed for you, you may already have a resistant strain of HIV to start with. Our doctor will discuss the subsequent options and follow up plans with you.