nPEP is a post-exposure prophylactic drug regime against HIV. Naturally, nPEP should be taken only after you have been exposed to HIV, i.e. in emergency situations. There is a time limit within which nPEP is effective. If taken within 72 hours, or 3 days, after HIV exposure, nPEP will likely prevent the HIV infection from taking place. The earlier nPEP is taken after exposure the better. This is because the protection provided by nPEP falls dramatically as more time passes since the exposure.
CAN I TAKE nPEP REGULARLY TO PROTECT MYSELF FROM HIV?
nPEP is a post-exposure prophylaxis regime. This means that nPEP should not be taken on a daily basis to protect yourself from HIV. It only works when taken in emergency situations after getting exposed to HIV. When taken within 3 days of exposure, nPEP prevents an HIV infection. However, its effectiveness decreases with passing time which is why it is advised to start nPEP as soon as the exposure has taken place.
If you want to protect yourself from getting exposed to HIV in the first place, nPEP might not be right for you. There are multiple other measures that you can take to protect yourself from HIV exposure in the first place. Top of the list is safe sex practices that protect you from not just HIV but also from other STDs. Some of these practices include:
- Wearing a condom for every intercourse
- Buying a new condom for every new sexual intercourse
- Getting tested for HIV regularly
- Getting your sexual partners tested for HIV regularly
Additionally, your doctor might also prescribe you the PrEP regime. PrEP, as opposed to nPEP, is designed to prevent HIV infection in HIV-negative people who have not yet been exposed to the virus. It means that PrEP, unlike nPEP, can be taken regularly to decrease your chances of acquiring HIV significantly.
HOW DO I KNOW IF I NEED TO TAKE nPEP?
There are clear guidelines set forth by the CDC concerning the use of the nPEP regime. If you have been exposed to HIV, it is recommended that you start nPEP therapy immediately. You can get exposed to HIV through:
- Unsafe sex with an HIV-positive person
- Unprotected sex with someone whose HIV status is unknown
- Sharing drug-injecting needles with others
- Sexual assault
If any of these apply to you, nPEP might be the right choice. Talk to your doctor immediately after a possible HIV exposure to explore and understand your options against HIV.
HOW IS nPEP ADMINISTERED?
Currently, there are two medications you take daily during the 28-day cycle of treatment. The drugs approved by the FDA in the nPEP regime are Tenofovir, Emtricitabine, and a third drug of choice between Raltegravir and Dolutegravir.
The CDC recommends a combination of Tenofovir, Emtricitabine, and either Raltegravir or Dolutegravir for adults. Women who are expecting to become pregnant, or are pregnant, should only be administered Raltegravir only along with the first two drugs. The drugs remain the same for children but the dose is adjusted accordingly.
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