Anova supports providing Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP) as an HIV prevention strategy, where HIV-negative people take a combination of antiretroviral therapy within 72 hours of potential exposure to HIV, to try and reduce the risk of becoming HIV-positive. It should be taken daily for 28 days during which adherence is vital
While PEP is being used after occupational exposure, the importance of using it as an HIV prevention tool after potential sexual exposure cannot be underestimated. While it is ethically impossible to use randomised control trial designs to measure the efficacy of PEP in humans, experiments on Macaque monkeys have demonstrated the protective effect of PEP. We also know that ARVs can protect against HIV infections if we look at the prevention of mother-to-child transmission and treatment as prevention.
It takes a few days for HIV to become established in the body following exposure; therefore, PEP given at this time may help the body’s immune system to stop the virus from replicating in the infected cells of the body. If a person who potentially has been exposed to HIV acts quickly and starts PEP within 72 hours, they stand a good chance of stopping the virus from establishing itself in the body.
PEP is available at Anova’s Health4Men clinics (Ivan Toms in Cape Town and Zola, Yeoville and Chiawelo Clinics in Johannesburg) and should be available at all Department of Health clinics and day hospitals. It is also possible to access PEP in the private sector at a cost.