What is PEP?
a) Post -Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP) is antiretroviral drug treatment that is started immediately after someone is exposed to HIV. The aim is to get the drugs inside the body as quick as possible to fight the virus allow a person’s immune system a chance to provide protection against the virus and to prevent HIV from becoming established in someone’s body. In order for Post exposure prophylaxis PEP to have a chance of working the medication drugs needs to be taken as soon as possible, definitely within 72 hours, after possible exposure to HIV. Left any longer and it is thought that the effectiveness of the treatment is severely diminished.
Post exposure prophylaxis (PEP) usually consists of a month long course of two or three different types of the antiretroviral drugs that are also prescribed as treatment for people with HIV. As with most antiretrovirals these can cause side effects such as diarrhea, headaches, nausea/vomiting and fatigue. Some of these side effects can be quite severe and it is estimated that 1 in 5 people give up the treatment before completion. The most common drugs prescribed for Post exposure prophylaxisPEP are tenofovir, emtricitabine (or lamivudine), and efavirenz or lopinavir/ritonavirzidovudine, lamivudine and nelfinavir.
b) Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP) is a course of antiretroviral drugs which is thought to reduce the chance of HIV establishment risk of seroconversion in one's body after events with high risk of exposure to HIV (e.g., unprotected anal or vaginal sex, or needle-stick injuries, or sharing needles).
To be most effective, one need to begin treatment antiretroviral drugs should begin within an hour of as soon as possible after possible exposure infection, and no longer than 72 hours post-exposure. Prophylactic treatment course for HIV typically lasts four weeks.
While there is compelling data to suggest that PEP after HIV exposure is effective, there have been cases where it has failed. Failure has often been attributed to the delay in receiving treatmentPEP, the level of exposure (i.e., the viral load received), or both. However, for non-occupational exposures, the time and level of exposure are based on patient-supplied information; absolute data is therefore unavailable. PEP can also slow down the development of antibodies, potentially causing false negatives on a later HIV test. Doctors will advise patients who received PEP to get anti-HIVa test at the completion of PEP course and at 3-6 months after that at 6 months post-exposure as well as the standard 3 month test.
The antiretroviral regimen used in PEP requires close compliance and can have unpleasant side effects including malaise, fatigue, diarrhea, headache, nausea and vomiting.
PEP is not a cure for HIV and is not guaranteed to prevent HIV from taking hold once the virus has entered the body. Condoms and lube for sex remain the most efficient way of staying safe from HIV.
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