Most of us are back to work or on the brink of starting our studies for the year, but the weather is still sunny and warm, and the festive feeling hasn’t quite made an exit yet. The pubs, clubs and parties are still packing our weekends, and with this summer fun still going strong, we need to make sure we’re ready for sex. And more importantly, sex that is as safe as it can be. Get prepped by getting sussed on PEP and PrEP.
What the PEP?
Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP) is a course of ARVs (antiretroviral tablets used to treat HIV) given to someone who is HIV-negative after he has had a high-risk event of getting HIV. This could be a condom breaking during anal sex, especially if he was the bottom (receptive partner). PEP reduces his risk of becoming infected.
PEP must be started as soon as possible after the risky sex, and not later than 72 hours. Men who have been raped are likely to need PEP unless they are already HIV-positive. The pills must be taken correctly, at the same time every day for one month.
If you suspect that you have been exposed to HIV, you can go to your doctor or your nearest Health4Men serviced clinic to get PEP. PEP is free at most government clinics.
What the PrEP?
Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) is an HIV prevention strategy where HIV-negative people take medications daily to prevent them from becoming positive if they are exposed to the virus. PrEP has been shown to significantly reduce (more than 90%) the risk of HIV infection in sexually active adults and in people who use drugs. It takes about 10 days of using PrEP to be effective in preventing transmission of HIV from anal sex (vaginal sex takes longer).
PrEP is available at any retail pharmacy in the country. It requires a script from a GP and you will need a kidney function test first, as well as other relevant tests to see it is safe to continue. Patients accessing healthcare in the private sector should, therefore, access PrEP from an educated GP.
PrEP is currently available for men who have sex with men and sex workers for free in the public sector at selected state facilities. PrEP is available at the Ivan Toms Centre for Men’s Health in Cape Town (021 447 2844).