PEP (or PEPSE) may stop someone from getting HIV as long as the treatment is started within 72 hours (3 days) of having unsafe sex or condom failure. The sooner it is started the better the chance of HIV being prevented. PEP means taking anti-HIV drugs for 4 weeks and can have side effects. PEP is not a cure for HIV and is not guaranteed to prevent HIV from taking hold once the virus has entered the body. PEP is available from Sexual Health Services and most Accident & Emergency centres across the North East. You might only get the first 5 days of medication from A & E, so you would need to go to a sexual health clinic to get the further medication needed.
PEP/PEPSE (Post Exposure Prophylaxis after Sexual Exposure to HIV) In More Depth.
What is Post Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP)? Post Exposure Prophylaxis is anti-HIV medication given to people who have been exposed to HIV infection, in order to reduce the risk of them becoming HIV positive.
PEP may stop HIV infection if taken early after HIV has entered the body, but before the infection takes hold.
When is PEP given? The most common reason for giving PEP is that someone has had sex without a condom or a condom failed when having vaginal or anal sex with someone who is HIV positive or is suspected to be HIV positive or of unknown status. Other reasons for prescribing PEP include needle stick injury and following sexual assault.
How soon should it be taken? The quicker PEP is started the better, definitely within 72 hours of the risk, however the longer the wait the more likely it is not to work.
Are the drugs the same as the ones taken by people with HIV? Yes they are the same drugs that are taken by people with HIV infection, and the combination most commonly used is Truvada and Kaletra but other combinations are sometimes used. Specifics of these medications can be discussed with the clinical staff.
What is involved in taking PEP? Blood tests are taken before you start medication to check your HIV status, liver and kidney function, blood sugar and cholesterol. These tests are repeated 2 weeks after starting and when you have finished the medication. Repeat HIV testing is done 3 months after completing the course of medication.
How often and for how long would I need to take it? The commonest combination consists of Truvada (I tablet daily) and Kaletra (2 tablets twice daily) and they need to be taken every day for four weeks (28 days).
Are there any Side Effects? Yes there can be with the most common side effects being sickness, diarrhea, fatigue, headaches, dizziness and rash. However it is unusual for them to be severe and if so can be treated with medication.
What do I do after PEP has been given? You will be given a starter pack of 3 to 5 days and also advice on what to do next. If not please contact your local GUM service for an appointment on the next working day. It is important to use condoms whilst taking PEP and until your blood test following treatment has returned negative for HIV.
What is important to remember?
• Keep all medicines out of the reach of children
• Store both drugs at room temperature
• Keep the drugs in their original container with the lid tightly closed
• Inform the doctor if you are taking any drug (prescribed by a doctor or bought yourself, including herbs)
• If you see a doctor including your GP you should let them know you are taking PEP
• If you buy any medicines from a pharmacy you should let the pharmacist know you are taking PEP.
If you would like more information contact MESMAC on 0191 233 1333.
You can also download the THT PEP booklet below.