nPEP is taken after exposure to HIV has occurred. It is effective as an emergency measure to prevent HIV infection. However, the efficacy of nPEP decreases as time passes after exposure.
nPEP is effective up to 72 hours after HIV exposure. This means that nPEP is still effective when taken at the 65th hour after getting exposed to the virus, albeit with a lower efficacy. It is therefore recommended to take nPEP as soon as possible once contact with HIV has been established. Ideally, nPEP should be administered within 24 hours of exposure.
nPEP is not a routine prevention method for HIV. It is also not 100% effective when trying to protect yourself from HIV and, therefore, should be combined with other safe practices for enhanced protection. Once started, an entire 4-week course of nPEP treatment should be completed without missing a single dose.
HOW EFFECTIVE IS nPEP IN PREVENTING HIV INFECTION AFTER EXPOSURE?
nPEP, the post-exposure prophylactic treatment for HIV, is very effective when taken to prevent HIV infections after exposure. nPEP consists of taking 2 pills a day for 28 consecutive days without missing a single dose. HIV, once inside the human body, needs some time to attack the immune cells and cause a permanent infection. nPEP works by preventing the onset of a permanent infection by HIV in the first 3 days.
Studies suggest that nPEP is highly effective in the first 3 days after being exposed to HIV, with the highest effectiveness in the first 24 hours. The effectiveness decreases as time goes by. Even though nPEP is still useful at the 65th hour after exposure, the level of protection as compared to that in the first 24 hours is drastically lowered. No studies have found nPEP to be helpful when administered after three days of exposure.
This regime carries quite a lot of restrictions that are set in place to provide enough protection against the virus. First, nPEP should only be taken after exposure and not before as a routine prevention method. This is because using nPEP in routine risks the development of drug resistance against HIV medication. HIV drug resistance is a growing problem in the United States as well as worldwide.
Once started, nPEP should be taken for an entire 28 day period. This ensures the possibility of complete removal of the virus from your body and minimizes the chance of infection to as little as possible. nPEP should not be stopped even if you feel fine and have no symptoms. HIV won't cause any symptoms in the first few days after infection.
It is also important to note that missing daily nPEP doses can cause serious problems. If you've missed a daily dose of nPEP, take the next dose and try to adhere to the schedule strictly. Missing one dose might not carry the most significant risk of the treatment not working. However, missing two doses can cause complete treatment failure and failure to protect against HIV.
HOW WOULD I KNOW IF I NEED nPEP?
nPEP is ideal if you suspect that you have been exposed to HIV recently. Your doctor will be able to evaluate your health and give you a better idea about needing nPEP. To clinically assess your nPEP requirement, your doctor may inquire about your sexual, medical, and drug history and order baseline tests.
Whether or not you should take nPEP is most often determined by the HIV status of your contact. If the source is a known HIV-positive individual, prompt treatment with nPEP is ideal and warranted. However, nPEP might not be necessary if the contact is on PrEP, pre-exposure prophylaxis, and has an undetectable viral load, especially if protection was used during intercourse.
However, HIV can also spread from causes other than sexual. You could be exposed to HIV through:
- Drug injections and sharing needles
- Blood transfusions
- Tattoos and piercings
- Sharing trimmers and razors
- Sharing anything that has infected blood on it
Your doctor will evaluate your condition and take a detailed history to determine whether you need nPEP or not. Your doctor may also require you to undergo testing for an accurate assessment. A rapid HIV test is done when you first show up to a doctor’s office after your initial exposure. This test cannot tell whether you have acquired HIV from your most recent exposure. However, it can provide your doctor with a better idea about your health and if you already have HIV or not.
nPEP might not be ideal for you if you already have HIV from past exposure, but you were unaware of it. In fact, taking nPEP when you are already HIV-positive may lead to the development of drug resistance. Your doctor will likely start you on anti-HIV medication and require additional testing.
IS nPEP THE SAME THING AS PREP?
nPEP is a post-HIV exposure treatment, while PrEP is a pre-exposure prophylaxis treatment. Both treatment regimens work to prevent HIV infections, but their timing, schedule, and drugs are different.
nPEP is taken only as an emergency measure. Two pills a day for 28 days without missing a single dose ensures the best possible form of protection against the virus after exposure. nPEP is stopped once the 28-day course is completed, and the person may or may not be started on PrEP for future protection depending on their risk factors.
PrEP, or pre-exposure prophylactic treatment, is a prophylactic treatment that can be taken daily by everyone. It is encouraged to take PrEP once daily for as long as protection from HIV is required. It means that some people might take PrEP for a lifetime!
WILL nPEP PROTECT ME FROM FUTURE HIV EXPOSURE AS WELL?
As good as it is in preventing HIV in emergency conditions, nPEP does not protect from any future exposures to HIV prophylactically. The only treatment regime that provides sufficient protection against HIV before any exposure is PrEP. When taken regularly without interruptions, PrEP can offer up to a staggering 97% of protection against the virus.
WHAT HAPPENS IF I MISS SOME DOSES FROM MY nPEP REGIME?
Missing doses from your nPEP regime is not ideal. Skipping doses can lead to both complete treatment failure and the development of drug resistance against HIV medication.
If you've missed a single dose, you may still be able to complete a successful nPEP treatment. Consult your doctor as soon as you miss a dose. Your doctor might recommend you take the missed dose at that time or simply wait for the next one.
However, missing two or more doses is problematic. Two missed doses decrease protection granted by nPEP by a significant margin. HIV infection may develop, and nPEP might not protect you from the onset of infection. Moreover, missing doses and then retaking nPEP can lead to the development of HIV drug resistance.
You must consult your healthcare provider immediately for advice if you've missed a dose while on nPEP.
WHAT HAPPENS AFTER A FULL 28-DAY TREATMENT WITH nPEP?
Once you've completed a full 28-day course of nPEP treatment, your doctor will evaluate you with further testing. An HIV blood test is done to ensure that the treatment has prevented the onset of an HIV infection.
If your rapid HIV test comes back positive, your doctor will start you on anti-HIV medication immediately. On the other hand, If your HIV test comes back negative, your doctor will talk to you about the possibility of starting a PrEP regime to prevent future HIV infections.
Further testing is also advised at three months and sometimes even six months after initial exposure to HIV.
Q) Can I Take nPEP After A Week Of Suspected HIV Exposure?
No. Not only is nPEP not going to work after a week has passed since the exposure, but it will also risk the development of anti-HIV drug resistance if you have been exposed to HIV. Talking to your primary healthcare provider about your options and how you can manage your situation better is the best thing to do.
Q) I Have Just Been Exposed To HIV; Where Can I Get nPEP?
nPEP is available in many locations throughout the United States. You can get nPEP directly from your doctor's office when you go for a consultation for your HIV exposure. You can also get nPEP regimes from Planned Parenthood clinics throughout the United States. Public clinics and pharmacies also have nPEP regimes that are covered by your medical insurance in most cases. Visit an IMG Health Clinic for fast and free testing and comprehensive treatment plans.
Q) I Can’t Pay For nPEP. Is There Still A Way For Me To Receive Treatment After HIV Exposure?
Yes, many independent and government-funded bodies enable the enhanced provision of the nPEP regime to reduce the incidence and transmission of HIV in the United States. If you are unsure about where to get nPEP, talk to your healthcare provider about the possibilities of receiving nPEP treatment for lower costs or for free.