Exposed to HIV? PEP can help.
PEP, or post-exposure prophylaxis, is a critical HIV prevention strategy used after potential exposure to the virus to reduce the risk of infection. It entails a month-long course of medication and must be started within 72 hours after exposure to HIV.
How does PEP work?
PEP involves taking antiretroviral medications (ART) for at least 28 days, usually once to twice daily. These ART drugs prevent HIV from replicating and spreading within your body. By acting as a shield against the virus’s ability to establish infection, PEP reduces the risk of HIV transmission after potential exposure. Following the prescribed treatment schedule is crucial to ensure its effectiveness in protecting your health.
Is PEP the right choice for you?
PEP is for people who may have been exposed to HIV in the last 72 hours. PEP might be right for you if you have experienced:
- Exposure during sex
- Sharing needles or other equipment to inject drugs
- Sexual assault
- Possible exposure at work
Are there side effects to PEP?
PEP can cause potential side effects, such as stomach discomfort and fatigue. However, if PEP is ineffective, you may experience flu-like symptoms similar to the early stages of HIV, such as fever or rash. If you have these symptoms while on PEP or within a month after completing the course, contact your doctor.
What’s the next step?
Schedule an appointment at Spectrum Medical immediately after potential exposure to HIV. Before being prescribed PEP, a nurse practitioner or doctor will speak with you to understand the circumstances and determine if PEP is right for you. You will also undergo an HIV blood test (if you are already HIV-positive, PEP cannot be prescribed). Additionally, you will be tested for Hepatitis B.