The Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) has become a threat to the health all sexually active people. It could easily be considered the scariest sexually transmitted disease (STD) because it is incurable and will eventually develop into the lethal condition called Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS). While HIV patients undoubtedly have a much longer lifespan due to advancements in medical technology, the looming imminence of AIDS can still be incredibly scary. This is why it is important for all sexually active people to be aware of the methods to prevent HIV, where to get HIV testing in Singapore, and most importantly what they can do if they fear they have been infected with HIV. This article will give a short explanation on Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP), a course of medications that can potentially prevent HIV from infecting your body.
What is PEP?
PEP is a series of medications that may prevent an HIV infection. It is only effective if the patient starts treatment within 72 hours of the potential HIV infection. In fact, it is more effective the earlier the patient begins treatment. However, do note that PEP is not always guaranteed to work. But it is the only available way to effectively remove HIV from the body after infection.
What does PEP consist of?
PEP consists of a 4-week course of antiretroviral medications. The treatment usually involves three anti-HIV/ARV medicines. These medicines will aid the body’s immune system in suppressing HIV and prevent the virus from multiplying in the body’s infected cells.
Are there any side effects to HIV PEP?
Over the course of the 28 days taking HIV PEP, you may experience side effects such as diarrhoea, nausea or vomiting. However, these are uncommon and not dangerous unless your symptoms are very severe.
What should you do after you have had a potential HIV infection?
Please consult a doctor at an STD clinic right away. Time is of the essence when PEP is concerned. The doctor will likely see you within 48 hours to begin your course of PEP. Do note that you can take HIV PEP in confidence, i.e. your health records will not show that you have taken HIV PEP, especially if you visit a private HIV clinic.
Below are the possible scenarios which put you at risk of HIV:
- Having unprotected anal or vaginal sex
- Having protected anal or vaginal sex where the condom broke
- Sharing needles during drug use
As HIV PEP becomes less effective with each treatment, please do not engage in risky sexual behaviours thinking that PEP will help to prevent the infection. The safest method of HIV transmission prevention is still to learn how to use condoms correctly.
Knowing about HIV PEP is the first step to ensuring you are sexually healthy. It is important to know what this treatment can do so that you can seek treatment if you ever need it.