Knowledge is power, so in order to make the best decisions about your sexual health, it’s important to know all the facts available. One way to protect yourself is to take PEP / PrEP. Here are the facts available on what exactly they are, how to take them and where they can be accessed.
PEP (Post Exposure Prophylaxis) is an emergency treatment available to people if they have had a recent exposure to HIV which works by preventing HIV establishing itself in the bloodstream. It must be taken within 72 hours of exposure to HIV.
People are recommended to attend the nearest STI/GUM clinic or Hospital A&E, not waiting until preferred clinics are open as PEP works best when taken closer to the incident. The attendant doctor will ask for information including whether the person you had sexual contact with is HIV positive, if they are on treatment; and if their viral load is known.
It consists of a course of tablets which must be taken for 28 days without missing any doses. After being prescribed PEP you will undergo a series of blood tests and STI screenings.
PrEP is medication to reduce the chance of getting HIV from having sex without a condom, which taken once a day will reduce the risk of getting HIV by more than 90%.
You must have a doctor’s prescription to get PrEP. At this current time, PrEP must be paid for and is not available under the GMS or Drug Payment Scheme. While prices may vary from stockists, the usual cost is around €100 for a month’s supply.
As HIV Ireland state: “PrEP is usually not necessary if you are only having sex with HIV-positive partners who are on treatment and have an undetectable viral load. Having an undetectable viral load means that an HIV-positive person cannot pass on the virus through sex.”
After starting to take PrEP, you must visit your doctor every three months for a new prescription and a series of tests including; a HIV blood test, a kidney test (about twice a year) and a full screening for other STIs.
While more research should be done before making your decision, they are the basics for both PEP and PrEP. Now where can you avail of them? PEP is of course available from clinics and hospitals, while HIV Ireland have provided a map of the locations for pharmacies who supply PrEp which can be found here.
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