If you think you may have been exposed to HIV, it’s time to act — a quick response means you may be able to prevent HIV with post-exposure prophylaxis.
What Does This Mean?
If you are HIV-negative and feel you have been exposed to the virus through sexual contact or shared needles, every hour counts. Post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) can prevent HIV from spreading in your body. These medications, when administered as soon as possible, can work up to 72 hours after exposure.
Exposure to HIV may result from:
> Unprotected sex with someone who is HIV positive and has a detectable viral load, or someone whose HIV status you don’t know
> Sharing needles with someone who is HIV positive or whose HIV status you don’t know
> Rape or sexual assault
HIV is not spread through air or water; tears or saliva that is not mixed with blood; or shaking hands or hugging. HIV cannot be spread through healthy, unbroken skin.
Where to Get Tested for HIV
Contact your healthcare provider, go to the emergency room as soon as possible, or visit the Cempa Community Care Clinic during office hours (which can be found here). Ask to be tested for HIV. Your healthcare provider will determine if taking PEP is right for you.
The Cempa Community Care Clinic provides free, confidential testing for HIV, Hepatitis C and STIs at our main location in downtown Chattanooga. Testing for HIV is available on a walk-in basis. Using a rapid testing device that requires a simple finger prick, you’ll receive results within 20 minutes. Results are more than 99% accurate.
When to Get Tested for HIV
If you think you’ve been exposed to HIV, it’s important to get tested immediately.
PEP works most effectively when taken immediately (within a 72 hours) after potential exposure. Learning that you may have contracted the virus within three days of exposure enables you to take a shorter course of medications that can prevent the spread of HIV in your body.
While PEP can help some individuals, it may not be the best treatment option if you’re regularly exposed to HIV. Healthcare providers and patient navigators at Cempa can help you decide if another type of preventive medication, pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), is an option for you.
What to Expect
When talking with a healthcare provider about HIV exposure, you can expect the following:
> Questions about your exposure to HIV to determine if PEP will work for you
> A test for HIV (You must agree to the test to receive treatment, which will be dependent on your exposure and risk level.)
> A test for STIs and hepatitis C
> If you’re a woman, you may receive a pregnancy test, and your healthcare provider may discuss emergency contraception.
> A discussion about how to avoid HIV exposure in the future, which may include PrEP