PEP VS PrEP: What’s the difference?
WHAT IS PEP?
- Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (usually called 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 does not treat or prevent any other sexually transmitted infections like gonorrhea, chlamydia, HPV (genital warts), herpes and syphilis.
- 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 28 days.
- If you think you are HIV-negative and may have been infected, contact your healthcare provider as soon as possible, always within 72 hours after the risk took place. The sooner you start PEP the better it works. The healthcare provider will check to see whether you are already HIV-positive – PEP can only be used by HIV-negative people to prevent infection.
- Only a doctor or qualified nursing sister can start you on PEP. Never try taking someone else’s ARV medication.
- You can get PEP if you are HIV-negative and a condom slipped off or broke during anal sex, or you had sex without a condom. Remember that HIV is spread through the semen (cum) or blood of someone who is HIV-positive. Your risk is greater if your partner has cum inside your anus, or if your partner was bleeding during sex.
WHAT IS 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 the risk of HIV infection in sexually active adults and in people who use drugs.
- Just remember, PrEP does not treat or prevent other sexually transmitted diseases like gonorrhea, chlamydia, HPV (genital warts), herpes and syphilis.
- If you take PrEP daily, you lower the risk of being infected with HIV. Regular testing and STI screening (every 3 months) will ensure that if you should become infected, it will be detected early.
- You can stop taking PrEP altogether if you no longer think that you need it, but you need to speak to your doctor first.
- PrEP is available for free at selected public clinics, at your GP and most medical aids would cover it. 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.
- Only a doctor can start you on PrEP. Never try taking someone else’s ARV medication.
- PrEP is recommended for HIV-negative people with: A history of inconsistent or no condom use; Multiple sex partners; A recent sexually transmitted infection like chlamydia, gonorrhea or syphilis; An HIV-positive sex partner with an unsuppressed or high viral load