What’s Up With PEP?
PEP, short for “post-exposure prophylaxis,” is a tool for reducing the risk of HIV infection after exposure to the virus. U.S. C.D.C. guidelines advise a 28-day course of antiretroviral medications; these must be started within 72 hours after exposure to HIV.
But in order to start PEP within that critical window, people must know it exists and where to ask for it, and providers must make it available. Post-exposure prophylaxis made headlines this summer when a New York man sought help from advocacy group ACT UP after having trouble accessing PEP at a hospital emergency room, where some staff apparently were unaware of PEP. (The man ultimately received the medications.)
In an article on POZ.com, Casey Halter explains the basic science behind post-exposure prophylaxis, outlines what to expect when taking it, and offers resources for accessing PEP from your doctor, local clinic, or hospital emergency room. (Key tip: Bring a fact sheet, either printed or cued up on your phone, to show to medical office staff in case they are unfamiliar with PEP).
Check out the excerpt below, and get the full article and resources at POZ.com.
By Casey Halter
September 5, 2013
… PEP is an important prevention tool, not only for those who are negative, but also for HIV-positive people in serodiscordant relationships (i.e., their partners are negative). “We want to make sure we can do everything we can to protect our partners,” says Reed Vreeland, communications coordinator for the Sero Project and an active member of ACT UP New York. “If a condom breaks, we want to make sure we can send our partners somewhere they’ll get effective treatment immediately that will greatly reduce their chances of becoming HIV positive.”
So what’s the hold-up with PEP? How accessible is it, where is it, and how can you be proactive about acquiring it?
…Ideally, anyone should be able to get PEP from a doctor’s office, hospital emergency room, urgent care clinic or local HIV clinic. But in the real world, most U.S. hospitals lack proper nPEP [non-occupational PEP] protocols. A Massachusetts study found that only about 15 percent of hospital emergency rooms had an nPEP [non-occupational PEP] protocol. A 2013 survey of Los Angeles-area health care sites found that less than 13 percent had PEP on location and only 3 percent would be willing to provide it to an uninsured person….
Note: PEP is not the same thing as PrEP (short for pre-exposure prophylaxis), an HIV-prevention strategy in which HIV-negative people take daily antiretroviral medications before potential exposure to HIV. Learn more about PrEP right here on the BETA blog, and don’t miss the fabulous PrEPFacts.org.