What is PEP?
Post-exposure prophylaxis, or PEP, is the process of taking antiretroviral medication (ART) as soon as possible after potential exposure, in order to prevent the possibility of being infected with HIV. It is an emergency treatment for HIV and it’s a short course of antiretroviral medication that can stop HIV infection if they are taken properly.
How do I take PEP?
It is recommended that you take PEP within 72 hours of a possible infection because it is most effective at preventing HIV infection. Unfortunately, you cannot take PEP after 72 hours of possible exposure, so every hour counts. When you are on PEP, you will be advised to take the medication at the same time every day for 4 weeks.
You can’t take PEP if you’re already living with HIV or if you want to prevent an unwanted pregnancy or other STIs.
When should I test for HIV after PEP?
Taking PEP in order to prevent HIV exposure doesn’t mean that you are in the clear. It’s important to get tested after using PEP to make sure the treatment was successful. Get tested 3 months after potential exposure, and then again after 6 months.
Your healthcare provider might also test for STIs and pregnancy (if you’re a woman) so you can take the morning after pill - so it’s important to ask about these tests so you can get the necessary help.
Who can take PEP?
PEP is mostly recommended for victims of sexual assault, possible exposure at work (occupational exposure) or if you have shared a needle or been exposed to sharp object with blood on it. Remember, it has to be taken within 72 hours.
Where can I get PEP?
Because PEP is a drug that is meant to prevent possible exposure to HIV, it is not easily available everywhere. It is mostly available at your nearest clinic, from your doctor or any healthcare provider. If you’re in a situation where you need PEP - like when the clinic is closed on a weekend, then you can go to your nearest hospital to get it.
Being aware of different ways to prevent being exposed to HIV is very important Choma. Don’t be shy to ask about PEP or any other HIV-related information because knowledge is power.
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