You may have heard of post-exposure prophylaxis, or PEP, but do you know what it is and what it’s used for? If gay men have been exposed to HIV during sex, PEP can be an option to help prevent HIV transmission in some circumstances. In the latest CHAPS campaign, Terrence Higgins Trust is working with a series of agencies and experts to help promote the facts about PEP and to help men understand about it and decide whether it might work for them.
Will Nutland, Head of Gay Men’s Health Promotion at THT, explained why the campaign is running and what it aims to do: “Drug treatment to help prevent the onset of HIV infection isn’t new, and has been available for some time to healthcare workers and others who might accidentally be exposed to HIV during the course of their work. Now, for the first time, there are prescribing guidelines for how PEP should be used for people exposed to HIV during sex. Through this campaign, we’re aiming to give gay men the information they need about PEP, how it works, when it’s appropriate to use it and how to get it. Two thirds of HIV infections acquired in the UK last year were amongst gay men, which is why the campaign concentrates on gay men rather than any other section of the population.”
Initially, the campaign will run in London and Brighton and will highlight the availability of PEP to gay men in both cities. Adverts will run in the gay press, and are accompanied by other materials with more detailed information. An online self-assessment questionnaire will help men to decide whether they have taken a risk that could justify them having PEP, and then gives details of clinics in their local area where PEP is available.
Will Nutland continued: “It’s very important to emphasise that PEP is not a morning-after pill treatment for HIV – it’s a month-long course of anti-HIV medication which can have side effects including diarrhoea, nausea and severe headaches. There is also no guarantee that PEP will work in all cases. We are working with gay men’s organisations and clinics in other parts of the country with a view to extending PEP availability to more areas.”