HIV Testing + PEP
If you come to see us at the STI clinic you will be offered a HIV test. HIV testing has been part of the routine screen at the STI clinic for many years and we encourage people to take the test. It is a good idea to know your HIV status because then you can look after your own health by engaging in HIV care and you can prevent transmission of HIV to your sexual partner. Since the mid 1990s there have been huge advances made in the management of HIV such that with antiretroviral therapy we expect people to live healthily. If you think you have been at risk of HIV it is a good idea to have a test. You could be infected for a long time before you develop any symptoms of infection and at that stage your health may have been damaged by the virus or you may have passed on the virus to your sexual partner. Some people experience a "seroconversion" illness around the time they have become infected. Symptoms of a seroconversion illness include flu symptoms, sore throat and a rash.
Sometimes after you have had an initial negative test you may be advised to have a repeat test after the "Window period". The window period is the term used to describe the time between someone getting infected with HIV and developing a positive HIV test which can be up to 12 weeks.
PEP and PEPSE
Prophylaxis means 'a treatment that prevents something happening'. Post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) is short-term antiretroviral treatment to reduce the likelihood of HIV infection after potential exposure, either occupationally or through sexual intercourse. PEP may prevent infection with HIV developing, 2 or 3 antiretroviral HIV drugs are taken for 28 days.
They must be started within 72 hours of possible exposure to HIV infection, if they are to have any chance of working - the sooner the better.
To be at risk of HIV you need to have had risky contact (e.g. penetrative sex, sharing a syringe) with a person who has HIV. If you are unsure of the HIV status of your contact it is helpful, but not always possible, to have their blood checked urgently to see if they have HIV, if they do not then HIV then PEP would not be necessary.
If you need PEP outside of The GUIDE Clinic opening hours then it is important to get an emergency 4-day supply of PEP from your local emergency department within 72 hours. Then come to The GUIDE Clinic at their next opening for further assessment and more PEP medication if deemed appropriate.
Pre exposure prophylaxis is a strategy for reducing the risk of HIV acquisition where a person who is HIV negative takes antiretroviral drugs before an exposure to HIV to prevent them from getting infected with HIV. It is not currently standard of care. Multiple studies are underway throughout the world to determine the benefits (ie how good is PREP and preventing HIV infections) and the risks (ie are the medications harmful or could its widespread use lead to more antiretroviral resistance). For further information please speak to one of the medical team.