An effective way of preventing the spread of HIV through sex or intravenous transmission (injecting) is through the use of a medication known as PrEP (Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis). It’s used as an HIV prevention drug and works to stop the virus from surviving in your body if you’re exposed to it.
PrEP has to be taken correctly in order for you to get the most benefit from it. For instance if you’re in a relationship with a partner who’s HIV positive, you should take PrEP daily. The second way of taking PrEP is what’s known as ‘event dosing’ (otherwise known as ‘on-demand’) to prepare yourself. You’d use this method if you know you’re going to have sex with someone who is either HIV positive or has an unknown HIV status.
HIV prevention drugs like PrEP won’t stop HIV from developing if you’ve already been exposed.
If you’ve already been exposed to HIV then you should use alternative treatments to stop HIV from developing or spreading.
When to use PEP
If you might’ve already been exposed to HIV and there’s a risk of it developing, then PrEP medications won’t be suitable for you. In cases like this, you’ll need to ask for advice on using PEP instead. These are medications that can be taken after exposure, but they should be used within 72 hours of having unprotected sex.
As a method of preventing HIV transmission, PEP (known as Post-Exposure Prophylaxis) shouldn’t be used on its own where possible, as it isn’t as effective as other prevention methods – such as using condoms and PrEP together. If you’ve been exposed to HIV and are currently taking PEP, you’ll still need to practice safe sex with barrier protection.
PEP is an option to explore for treatment if you feel as though you might have been exposed to HIV, but should be taken within 72 hours of the possible exposure. If you think you’ve left it longer than 3 days, then speak to a GP or clinician about your options.