PEP – Post Exposure Prophylaxis

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Post Exposure Prophylaxis – PEP

PEP (Post Exposure Prophylaxis) is a course of medication that can be taken to reduce the risk of HIV developing in your body, if you have been at risk from the virus.

PEP is a 4 week course of anti HIV drugs that can be given to you if you have been at risk from HIV and it works in much the same way as the 4 week course of medication given to babies who have been born to women who are living with HIV.

Taking PEP does not guarantee that HIV will not develop but it will greatly reduce the chances that HIV will develop.

PEP is not to be taken as a preventative instead of using condoms. PEP should be used in emergencies only.

There are many things to be taken into consideration with taking PEP.

The earlier PEP is taken the higher the chance it will work. PEP must be taken within 72 hours (3 days) of the risk exposure to HIV.
This means that if whilst having sex with someone who you know is living with HIV, the condom breaks, you have 72 hours from that time to begin PEP.

There are many common side effects associated with PEP.
In effect what you are taking is anti HIV medication and this is strongly anti viral with quite a lot of associated side effects. You must take the full course or they will be completely ineffective.

It is not guaranteed to work.
There are many different types of anti HIV drugs and many different types of HIV. If your exposure to HIV is known, to a known person, it would be essential that that person comes with you to get PEP. They can tell the doctor what type of medication they are on and other relevant details. If you cannot get the individual to attend it may be helpful to take a number so the doctor can call them and ask them the relevant questions.

You are not guaranteed to receive PEP.
Just because you request it, it does not mean you will get it. PEP is given out after a full HIV risk assessment has been made and there are strict guidelines for its prescription.

The drugs are very expensive and will not be given out to an individual who is repeatedly having unprotected sex or sharing needles.

It is only available in some places.
The STI clinic in the Mid Western Regional hospital does provide PEP. It is by appointment only and you will need to tell the receptionist that PEP is what you are looking for in order to get the appointment in time.

The Accident and Emergency department in all Irish hospitals also provides PEP. When talking to the receptionist, tell them you need to be seen because you think you may have been at risk from ‘an infection’.

When you are seen by the nurse, tell them that the infection was HIV and that you are looking for PEP.

You get asked questions before the doctor decides whether you can have PEP or not.
You will be asked about what the risk was and how it occurred. You will be asked about your sexual history and sexual patterns as well as your drug use. You will be asked about previous HIV testing and also whether you have had PEP before. The doctor will try to make an assessment on your ability to negotiate safer sex and can refuse you the treatment if they feel it will be of no long term benefit because you will be at risk again in the near future.

The STI Clinic is asking that anyone looking for PEP gives feedback as to their experience. This is so they can make sure the system is working and amend it if it is not.

They are happy for feedback to be given directly to them or through us.

For more information about PEP contact the STI Clinic in Dooradoyle, Limerick on 061 482382.