PEP (Post Exposure Prophylaxis)
If your partner is exposed to HIV through unprotected sex or if a condom tears or slips off, there is a treatment option available that may prevent infection.
PEP involves taking a combination of at least two anti-HIV drugs for four weeks to prevent HIV replicating itself in the body.
PEP must be taken within 72 hours (3 days) of exposure to HIV, but the earlier the treatment starts the better.
PEP is only available from some sexual health and STI clinics and some Hospital Emergency Departments. Not everyone will be prescribed PEP. There are guidelines for prescribing and each person is assessed based on the information provided in relation to the potential risk of exposure to HIV.
If you and/or your partner find yourselves in such a situation, seek medical advice as soon as possible.
More information on PEP is available in the PEP section of this website.
PrEP (Pre Exposure Prophylaxis)
PrEP is a new HIV prevention strategy that involves HIV-negative people taking antiretroviral drugs (ARVS) to reduce the risk of becoming infected with HIV if sexually exposed to the virus.
Research shows that PrEP is highly effective in preventing the sexual transmission of HIV as long as the medication is taken regularly and as directed. The PROUD study in the UK reported that PrEP reduced the risk of HIV infection by 86% for men who have sex with men. You can read more about this study at www.proud.mrc.ac.uk.
At the time of writing this information (June 2016), PrEP is not yet available in Ireland, but access is expanding globally. The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends that in all countries, PrEP should be available to men who have sex with men, as part of an overall HIV intervention. The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) advises European countries to consider integrating PrEP into their existing HIV prevention package for those most at-risk of HIV infection, starting with men who have sex with men.
Currently (June 2016) in Ireland some STI services and groups are engaged in research and are advocating for the availability of PrEP. Keep up to date about access to PrEP at www.prepwatch.org and on this website.
PrEP does not prevent other STIs. Condoms, when used consistently and correctly, are the best way to prevent the transmission of HIV and other STIs.