What you are talking about is called post-exposure prophylaxis, or PEP for short. Prophylaxis means prevention. In case you’ve had unprotected sex with someone who you think may be HIV-positive, you can drastically reduce the risk of getting infected with the HI-virus by taking PEP.
You will need to see a healthcare provider to get a prescription and instructions on how to take PEP.
Obviously, you can also take PEP in other cases where you might have been exposed to the virus, like having shared needles, or having come in contact with infected blood.
PEP is not meant for people who are regularly at risk of getting infected with HIV/AIDS. They have another option called PrEP, short for pre-exposure prophylaxis. PrEP is now available in Kenya.
Being on PEP means taking the same drugs you would take if you were HIV-positive: antiretrovirals (ARVs).
You will need to start PEP as soon as possible after you had unprotected sex, ideally within 72 hours.
If you wait for more than three days, it may no longer be effective.
You will need to take several pills daily for 28 days.
You will also need to get tested for HIV six weeks and three months after you were exposed to the virus. PEP is very effective, but it can’t reduce the risk by 100 per cent.
PEP is great in emergency situations, but it also comes with side-effects that can be quite severe. The most common ones are nausea, diarrhoea, and tiredness. If you have extreme reactions to PEP, talk to the healthcare provider who prescribed the drugs, to see if anything can be done to help you with the side-effects.
And please don’t think it’s okay to have unprotected sex, because there’s PEP to save you. The much better options are to always have protected sex and to know the status of the person(s) you are having sex with, as well as your own status.
Do you have questions about PEP? Head to our forum to get help.