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Morning after pill for AIDS?
Mar 18, 2003

I did a really stupid thing last night and had sex with someone I met at a bar, without a condom. I am a female, and I have never done anything like this before, and have had sex with only two other people in my life! I have no idea what his HIV status is. He said he didn't have it. Is there anything I can take now just in case I was infected? I have a horrible sore throat right now, and have just read that was a symptom of infection.

Response from Mr. Kull

Unless you know that your partner had HIV-disease (HIV infection had been confirmed through testing) or had significant risk for infection (sex with men, shares needles, or confirmed exposure to HIV), taking medication (PEP) after your exposure is not indicated nor necessary.

PEP stands for post-exposure prophylaxis, the use of anitviral medications shortly after a high-risk exposure to PREVENT infection. PEP was initially used among healthcare workers who experienced accidental needlestick injuries or other occupational exposures to fluids. Researchers found that PEP reduced the rate of infection by 79%, but some who took PEP still became infected. Research on PEP for sexual exposures is currently being conducted to see if treatments for the general public are feasible and effective.

Post-exposure prophylaxis probably needs to be started at least within 24-36 hours of exposure. Since the procedure is still not widely practiced, is expensive (and not covered by health insurance), and can cause troubling side-effects for people, PEP is only recommended for individuals who have a significant exposure to HIV. Criteria vary, but PEP is only warranted when someone has unprotected vaginal or anal intercourse to ejaculation with an infected person or a person from a high-risk group (men who have sex with men, injection drug users, or people from an area of high HIV prevalence), or for a victim of sexual assault. Programs that provide PEP are developing (mostly in urban areas) and hospitals sometimes have protocols for administering non-occupational PEP.

Besides the cost, hassle and side-effects of the medications, taking PEP does not have any long-term health consequences. Remeber, it is only indicated for people who have a high-risk exposure.

Please read through the articles posted on the Post-exposure Prevention for Sexual, Needle, or Non-occupational Exposures to HIV page at The Body for more information.

Practically everyone has unprotected sex at some point in their life, and not everyone gets infected with HIV after having one or two slip-ups. Do your best to use condoms with partners of unknown status in the future, and try not to stress out too much about this.

RMK



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