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Transmission and PEP


Concerned your partner or family member may have been accidentally exposed??? Sometimes people are concerned with transmitting the virus to others, for example in a domestic situation, or condom failure.

Many of these concerns are based on misinformation, media hype or outdated data. At Straight Arrows, for example, we still receive the occasional call regarding transmission via mosquitoes, when this has been accepted as not viable for many years. On the other hand, there are still some that believe the contraceptive pill will protect against sexually transmitted infections, including HIV.

In a domestic situation, particularly, these risks are nearly always virtually non existent. The concerns people have, however, are real, and should be dealt with. Discussion of what actually constitutes a risk in the real world is vital for your own well being as well as your family. Talking to an experienced HIV specialist is essential to having a general understanding of transmission, and particular situations as they arise.

Occasionally, there will be sufficient concern for a specialist to consider a preventative intervention to be appropriate. This is most often in the context of a sexual encounter and is called PEP.

Consider PEP (HIV Post-Exposure Prophylaxis)

What is PEP?

It is a type of drug therapy for HIV that is designed to reduce (but not eliminate) the possibility of infection with HIV after a known exposure. PEP is primarily intended for the prevention of HIV in cases where there has been a KNOWN HIGH RISK of transmission.

It has been found that there may be a window of opportunity in the first few hours or days after exposure to HIV. During this time a course of medications may be able to prevent establishment of HIV in people who did not have HIV prior to exposure. We currently do not know how effective PEP is. Taking PEP will not guarantee that a person who has been exposed will not contract HIV.

For PEP to be most effective you will need to access it within 72 hours. The earlier it is accessed the more effective it may be. It is recommended that even after 72 hours you still contact your HIV specialist to discuss your options. A health care professional can assess your situation and determine the likely risk of exposure to HIV, and then a shared decision will be made if PEP is appropriate. This is not a simple drug treatment and needs to be taken for 28 days.

How to access PEP

A PEP program is available at the Alfred Hospital, some specialist GPs and emergency departments. Please call the PEP Telephone Information Line to talk to a nurse about your options and where to access PEP on 1800 889 887 (24 hours).

Who can I Talk to?

  • Victorian NPEP Service – 1800 889 887
  • Your GP if he or she is a specialist in HIV medicine.
  • Specialist HIV Physician – The Alfred – (03) 9076 6081
  • Counselor – Infectious Diseases Social Work Team – (03) 9076 3026

For written information:

Education and Resource Centre

(03) 9076 6993

You can also receive support from:

Positive Women

(03) 9863 8747

Straight Arrows

(03) 9863 9414


(03) 9865 6700

Connectline, HIV and Sexual Health Line

1800 038 125

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