Prep for NPEP
By Andrea Arscott, Senior Columnist
Would you know when to take action and what to do to take care of yourself or a loved one to prevent HIV transmission if either of you were involved in an unexpected occurrence that could lead to life-altering consequences? You might not even be aware of the fact that there is something you can and should do. This information could save a life, so pay attention and learn how to protect yourself and others from long-term illness.
Hopefully you never experience this, but if you’re sexually assaulted or raped, should you take a shower, head to the clinic, or call 911? If it happened to a girlfriend, would you rush over with a box of tissues and a carton of rainbow sherbet to comfort, or would you take her to a doctor? Don’t allow her to wash the evidence from her body until she’s examined.
Now let’s say you’re in a public washroom and the garbage can looks like a volcano about to overflow with paper towels. Rather than leaving it to erupt, you take a clean paper towel and press the garbage down with your hands. Suddenly a feeling like hot lava stings you, and when you look, your finger is oozing blood. You see a needle. Do you run off crying or to find an employee to retrieve it with tongs and ask for first aid?
What if you had drunken condomless sex with a one-night stand and then found out the next day that the guy you perceived as a sexy Latin love machine is actually a heroin user who lives in his van? Would you try to forget about your poor choice not to use a condom, or would you ask him for a ride to the hospital?
Or maybe you’re gay, and the man you just had anal sex with discovered the condom broke after he ejaculated inside you. He panics, blames you for insisting on using the last of the lube to massage your back, and admits he’s HIV-positive.
What do you do?
Find a way to St. Paul’s Hospital Emergency, or the Immunodeficiency Clinic on the fifth floor, or to any other clinic listed at the bottom of the web page cfenet.ubc.ca/npep, as soon as possible! But don’t kill yourself trying to get there by attempting to flag down a moving bus or by jumping into a van with a driver who’s high on drugs. Stay calm, and don’t get yourself into another conundrum.
When you arrive at the hospital, tell the triage nurse you want to be assessed for NPEP (Non-Occupational Post-Exposure Prophylaxis). The BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS explains that NPEP is a series of anti-HIV medications offered to patients who engaged in a sexual act or shared a needle with someone that they either know is HIV-positive or is from a “high-risk HIV group (injection drug users, and sex trade workers and men who have sex with men).”
NPEP is most effective when started within two hours of a possible exposure to HIV and is available up to a maximum of 72 hours after exposure. If the patient takes the drugs exactly as prescribed over the following month, the chances of acquiring HIV decrease by 80 per cent.
These medications cost up to $1,000 and are for a single-exposure episode. This means, you can’t make a habit of committing mistakes like sharing needles and other drug paraphernalia, doing good deeds in the bathroom, having unprotected sex with random strangers, and wasting lubrication that prevents friction and condom breakage. Anti-HIV meds also have harsh side effects, and according to TheBody.com, “40 per cent of health care workers did not complete post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) because of the side effects.”
Stay tuned for the next article on PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis).
Know your options. Get tested. Wear a condom.
Come down to the Purpose Society testing clinic at 40 Begbie Street in New West the first and third Friday of the month from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. for anonymous and rapid HIV testing and STI and hepatitis testing. We also provide vaccines, free harm reduction supplies, and condoms! You can also get your questions answered by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org