PEP is not 100% effective; it can not guarantee that exposure to HIV will not become a case of HIV infection - AIDSInfoNet
image by: HIV Ireland
I grew up in a Modern Orthodox Jewish family in New Jersey, where my “sex talk,” at 13, came in the form of my mother handing me a book of anatomical comics. Inside it, she placed post-it notes to indicate her feelings. In the masturbation section: “God does not approve of this.” In the gay sex section: “Definitely not.” When I came out at 18, I had to learn everything on my own. Last year, as a 21-year-old college student, I got my hardest lesson.
Out one night in early 2012, I met a young, attractive lawyer, and we hooked up. The next day, he called me. He was tall, intriguing, and he had his own place. Within 24 hours of our first…
“I just found out that I was with a positive partner yesterday before you,” he said. “We weren’t safe either. I’m not sure I contracted it, or anything, but I’m going on PEP. And you should, too.”
In 2005, the Centers for Disease Control reviewed information on PEP. They concluded that it should also be available for use after HIV exposures that are not work-related. People can be exposed to HIV during unsafe sexual activity, when a condom breaks during sex, or if they share needles for injecting drugs. Infants can be exposed if they drink breast milk from an infected woman.
How much protection does PEP provide from HIV infection? We don’t know. Several studies suggest that anti-HIV drugs can reduce the risk of HIV infection if taken within 72 hours of an exposure to HIV and if taken every day for four weeks. The sooner PEP is started after an exposure, the more likely it is to work. We do know that PEP does not always prevent HIV infection. There are several reports of people becoming infected with HIV despite taking PEP medications.
Post-exposure prophylaxis, or PEP, is a way to prevent HIV infection after a recent possible exposure to the virus.
Most of the evidence for efficacy has been gathered from occupational exposure. The evidence base is growing, although further randomised studies are needed.
PEP should be offered, and initiated as early as possible, for all individuals with an exposure that has the potential for HIV transmission, and ideally within 72 hours. If started soon after exposure, PEP can reduce the risk of HIV infection by over 80%. Adherence to a full 28-day course of ARVs is critical to the effectiveness of the intervention.
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