The Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) is a virus that attacks the body’s immune system. HIV attacks cells that help the body’s defense against infection, making a person more vulnerable to other illnesses and infections. HIV can be passed from person to person through the exchange of infected blood, breast milk, sperm, and vaginal secretions. If HIV is not treated, it can progress to Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS), a kind of chronic and potentially fatal disease. Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP HIV) is one way to deal with HIV in Singapore and other countries. Read on to learn more about PEP HIV.
PEP HIV (or simply PEP) is a medication that is used to prevent or lower the risk of contracting HIV after being exposed to the virus and must be taken within 72 hours of possible HIV exposure. PEP HIV after 72 hours may be considered depending on the severity of exposure and some reports say it may even be ineffective after said timeframe. Be aware that with HIV, every hour counts and the sooner PEP HIV is started, the better. The ideal time frame is within 48 hours after possible HIV exposure. PEP HIV entails taking antiretroviral therapy (ART) or antiretroviral (ARV) medications for 28 days where the medicine (usually in pill form) is taken orally once or twice a day. Treatment compliance is critical to ensuring treatment effectiveness. It is critical that you take each pill exactly as prescribed and never skip a dose because when this happens PEP may not work as well.
There are several PEP HIV treatment regimens to choose from and the doctor will assess the patient’s specific requirements and recommend the suitable treatment approach. Approaches may differ if the patient is a child or an adult, a pregnant woman, etc. Currently, there is a two-drug oral drug combination and a three-drug oral drug combination for PEP HIV.
It should be noted that PEP HIV was intended to be used only in emergency situations and it is not advised for people who are regularly exposed to HIV. PEP HIV is not for everyone and the ideal candidates for PEP HIV are those who believe they were exposed to the virus during sex, those who have experienced sexual assault, drug users who recently shared needles or other similar items, and/or those who work in healthcare facilities and think they were exposed to the virus while on the job.
It is standard practice in Singapore and in other countries that HIV testing be done before PEP HIV is considered. PEP HIV is to prevent or reduce the risk of being infected and will not work if the concerned person is already infected with HIV, thus a test is required to help with identifying if PEP HIV is still usable. This is done to rule out the possibility that the patient is already infected. The doctor may prescribe other antiretroviral medications for the long term if HIV testing turns out to be positive. Establishing that the patient is not HIV positive already, additional tests will be done such as renal function test to be able to see if the kidneys can bear the medicine to be administered and to see if use of the PEP HIV medications can be started (or continued). The doctor will adjust dosage , frequency and timing of the medication if there are kidney function issues. Further testing will be decided upon by the doctor depending on the patient’s current medical condition and related medical history. Moreover, testing for STDs can be required if it was determined that there is high risk exposure.
After finishing PEP HIV medication (standard is 4 weeks) , you must see your nurse or doctor for follow-up HIV testing. After 4-6 weeks of being exposed to HIV for the first time, a test is done again and then this will be repeated 3 months later. Depending on the circumstances, the doctor may advise the patient to have another HIV test 6 months later. It is critical to obtain these follow-up tests to ensure that PEP HIV was effective. Meanwhile, continue to protect yourself and others from HIV by using condoms when having sex and not sharing needles or works.
As with any medication, side effects are to be expected, with the most commonly reported side effects being nausea, appetite loss, vomiting, diarrhea, insomnia, lucid dreaming, aching muscles, and fatigue. The side effects are only temporary and should disappear within 5 to 7 days of beginning treatment. If side effects occur, notify your doctor immediately so that the appropriate symptom-relieving medications can be prescribed. Furthermore, PEP HIV has no long-term side effects, and any unpleasant side effects will disappear once you stop taking it. Other medications that are being taken while receiving PEP HIV treatments should be disclosed to the doctor for proper consideration.
To get treatment in Singapore, it is important to note that only a licensed medical practitioner can prescribe HIV PEP treatment medication. The first-line CDC and WHO-approved PEP treatment regimen is recommended. You can discuss with your GP to get more ideas about PEP HIV.
The cost of getting PEP HIV treatment will depend on your requirements and the clinic or medical practitioner who will administer the said treatment. Of course, it can be expected that a three-drug combination can cost higher than the two-drug combination. The drugs will also be taken for 28 days-another factor to the total costs. The costs for other testing required such as HIV testing, STD testing (if required), renal functions test, and the consultation fee will also be added to the total bill. However, the cost should not be emphasized because HIV infection is far more troublesome, and proper medication should be prioritized.
PEP HIV is not intended to replace other HIV prevention methods such as safe sex, pre-exposure prophylaxis, and the safety measures and protocols observed by a healthcare worker. Moreover, PEP HIV is not recommended for people who are frequently exposed to HIV, such as if you have unprotected sexual contact with an HIV-positive partner or engage in risky sexual behavior on a regular basis.
Dr Ben Medical @ Raffles Place/ Tanjong Pagar
SBF Center Medical Suites
160 Robinson Road
#03-09 SBF Center Medical Suites
+65 888 12344 | +65 888 12344