What is post-exposure prophylaxis?

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HIV post-exposure prevention: Overview

HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) is a virus that attacks the immune system. You can get HIV during sex (vaginal, anal, or oral sex) with someone who has it. You can get it if you're sexually assaulted. You can also get it if you share a needle, a syringe, or other drug equipment.


If you think you may have been exposed to HIV, see a doctor right away. There is treatment that can help.


The treatment is called post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP). It's medicine that can help prevent you from getting HIV.

How is HIV post-exposure prevention (PEP) given to a child?

PEP must be started within 3 days (72 hours) of the time your child came into contact with HIV.

One of the first things your doctor will do is make sure your child is not already infected with the virus. This is most often done with an HIV blood test.

If PEP is right for your child, the doctor will prescribe medicine. Which medicine your doctor chooses depends on several things. These include your child's age and any other health conditions your child has.

Make sure to follow your doctor's instructions. Medicines are usually given every day for 28 days. The treatment won't work well if you don't follow the daily schedule.

Some medicines may be given more than 1 time a day. Tell your doctor if you have problems with the schedule.

PEP medicines come in many forms. These can include tablets, capsules, liquids, and chewables. Tell your doctor if your child has trouble taking any form of medicine. Your doctor may be able to choose another one or show you how to make it easier to swallow.

Your child will need regular visits with the doctor. The doctor will check to see how well the treatment is helping your child. The doctor may adjust the medicine if needed.

How can you safely give HIV post-exposure prevention (PEP) to your child?

  • Be safe with medicines. Have your child take medicines exactly as prescribed. Call your doctor if you think your child is having a problem with a medicine. You will get more details on the specific medicines your doctor prescribes.
  • Do not share the medicine with other people.
  • Call your doctor if your child has nausea, fatigue, diarrhea, or dizziness.

How is HIV post-exposure prevention (PEP) given?

Your doctor will start you on PEP.

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    Start PEP as soon as possible.

    Every hour counts. It must be started within 3 days (72 hours) after you were exposed to HIV.

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    Take your medicines exactly as prescribed.

    PEP treatment lasts 28 days.

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    Follow up with your doctor.

    You'll need an HIV test at the start and at the end of treatment.

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    Talk to your doctor about other tests.

    The doctor might recommend things like testing you for hepatitis or other infections. And you may get a pregnancy test.

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    Ask your doctor about PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis).

    If you're sometimes at risk of being infected with HIV, talk to your doctor about taking medicines that may lower your risk.

HIV post-exposure prevention (PEP) for children: Overview

HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) is a virus that attacks the immune system. This is the body's natural defense system. Without a strong immune system, the body has trouble fighting off disease.

If your child has come into contact with HIV, treatment can help prevent the virus from taking hold and spreading in your child's body. This treatment is called post-exposure prevention (PEP). It is only for people who have been exposed to the virus but are not infected yet.

Children can be exposed to HIV in several ways. Some examples are:

  • Being sexually abused by a person who has HIV.
  • Nursing from the breast of someone who has HIV.

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