What You Need To Know About Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP)

What is Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP)?

Post-Exposure prophylaxis is a short course of medications that can be taken to prevent HIV after a possible exposure. Post-Exposure prophylaxis must be started within 72 hours of possible exposure to HIV for example unprotected sex, sharing needles or syringes, someone who has been sexually assaulted. The sooner to start PEP, the better.

How well does PEP work?

PEP is highly effective to prevent you from getting HIV if taken within 72 hours after possible exposure to HIV. Once you started taking PEP, you will need to take it daily for 28 days. While taking PEP, it is important to use another HIV prevention method like using condoms while having sexual intercourse because PEP is not 100% effective to prevent HIV. Just to keep in mind, PEP is highly effective but not 100% effective.

How do I take PEP?

Post-Exposure prophylaxis is a medication that you need to take within 72 hours after possible exposure to HIV. Your doctor will prescribe you 2 types of medications: Dolutegravir or Raltegravir and Emtricitabine with Tenofovir Disoproxil Fumarate. You need to take 1 tablet of each type of medication daily for a total of 28 days.

Can I stop taking PEP if I haven’t completed 28 days courses?

The answer is NO. If someone stops taking PEP halfway or does not complete the PEP course for 28 days, this might lead to treatment failure and in turn resulting in HIV seroconversion which means HIV positive. It is very important to make sure that you complete the 28 days of PEP. Thus, we will suggest for you to take PEP every day at the same time so that you won’t forget/skip to take the PEP.

Are there any side effect for PEP?

Generally, PEP is safe. The most common side effects reported are nausea, upset stomach or diarrhea in some people which will go off eventually or with some medications. Some people might have mood swings or insomnia. But usually there is no serious side effect or life-threatening side effects.

How often Can I take PEP or Can I take PEP every time I have unprotected sex?

PEP is only for emergency situation use only. Please do not misunderstand it as an HIV prevention method for unprotected sex. It is not intended for regular use. Other methods like condoms should be used to prevent HIV. If someone has a higher risk of exposure to HIV, he/she need to consult a doctor for Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) which is more suitable for long-term prevention than using a condom.

What should I do after I completed 28 days of PEP?

After completing 28 days of PEP, you need to visit your doctor again for HIV testing. This is just to make sure or to confirm that HIV seroconversion is not taking place. If the HIV result is negative, your doctor will ask you to come back again for another HIV test after 3 months of last exposure for the final HIV status confirmation.

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