An Informative Guide to Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP) for HIV


37.9 million people across the world have been infected by HIV and around 23.3 million people are undergoing antiretroviral therapy. Antiretroviral therapy refers to the process of infusing HIV medicines to treat HIV infection. This does not cure HIV but can improve the quality of life of people. HIV post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) is the protocol of taking a short course of HIV medicines immediately after a potential threat from exposure to the HIV infection. This is a preventive measure to protect anyone from getting infected by the fatal HIV.

Post Exposure Prophylaxis PEP for HIV

Why PEP?

HIV does not spread through touch or eating from the same plate. But it can spread via

  1. Unprotected sex
  2. Share needles while preparing drugs
  3. Sexually assaulted by unknown thugs
  4. Blood infusion without testing etc.

If anyone fears an HIV infection and has not tested their HIV status, they can inform their healthcare provider about their doubt. PEP stands for post-exposure prophylaxis and the word prophylaxis means preventing or controlling diseases. This is the simple and most trustworthy treatment in this situation as it prevents one from contracting HIV infection.

When to use PEP?

  1. The PEP should be taken 72 hours within the recent encounter with HIV.
  2. Once subscribed to PEP, one has to take medicines once or twice for 28 days.
  3. PEP reduces the probability of one getting infected by HIV by 95 percent.
  4. After completing a 28-day course, one must visit their healthcare provider for HIV and other tests.
  5. It is not advisable to stop PEP in middle and discontinue medications.

The PEP should be used in emergencies only. For regular protection against HIV, one should follow the routine HIV prevention techniques, namely pre-exposure prophylaxis that includes medicines to lower the probability of HIV infection, condoms to not allow sexually transmitted diseases, and use of sterile needles for in vivo injections.

What are the PEP Medicines?

PEP medicines are available in clinics, emergency rooms, and doctor’s offices. They generally consist of three anti-HIV drugs from different classes.

Is PEP Effective?

PEP is one hundred percent effective in protecting people from HIV infections if used correctly. The medicines used for PEP are defined in the Center of Disease Control guidelines. While one is using PEP, they should also use the traditional pre-exposure prophylaxis methods if they are in an HIV infection-prone situation.

Are There Any Risks in PEP?

The HIV medicines used in PEP can cause some minimal side effects in some. These side effects are not life-threatening. There could be drug interactions as well as the person can be consuming some other medicines. The common side effects of PEP are:

  1. Diarrhea
  2. Tiredness
  3. Nausea
  4. Vomiting
  5. General discomfort etc.

These side effects last for a few days. In case one develops flu-like symptoms or fever or swollen glands, they need to consult a doctor immediately.

Dr. Ankur Tandon
Dr. Ankur Tandon is a consultant physician practicing in Dr. Tandan's Medical & Dental Speciality Centre, Agra. He has over 12 years of experience & is an expert in treating heart, lungs, TB, diabetes, and stomach related problems. He completed his M.B.B.S. in 2002 from University of Pune and M.D. in 2007 from the University of Seychelles.


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