In my Melbourne practice I look after many people living with HIV as being actively involved with HIV prevention. Part of HIV prevention is to encourage HIV testing with rapid HIV tests. Frequently I am dealing with very distressed patients who are worried they may have been exposed to HIV.
I have found that many people have not been offered good information on HIV infection & transmission. Many people are not fully aware of exactly how HIV as a virus spreads. The ways that exposure to HIV leads to infection are able to be prevented and the key is to have a good understanding of how this virus is transmitted and importantly how HIV is not transmitted. Once we have a good understanding of how to prevent HIV infections we will be able to relax and be worry free both during and after sexual activity.
The early messages of “only one partner” or not having sex at all are long gone.
We know that safe sex works so it’s about finding confidence in the ways you choose to enjoy sex and your own levels of risk. For example we know that oral sex presents a very low risk of HIV transmission however your level of comfort with that risk will determine how you choose to enjoy sex.
Exciting new HIV prevention technologies include:
Pre Exposure Prophylaxis “PrEP” is a daily tablet of Truvada that can decrease the risk of HIV infection by up to 99%. Truvada for PrEP is now being trailed throughout Australia and has shown to be very effecting with minimal side effects.
The important Truvada side effects include rare but reversible drop in kidney function and some issues in people who are infected with Hepatitis B. Common side effects include gastric upset when starting the medication. This normally settles quickly and is gone within 1-2 weeks.
Starting PrEP can be tricky and I highly recommend you talk with a HIV specialist who actively prescribed Truvada for prevention. They will be able to help organise testing to ensure you start the process in the safest way possible.
Post Exposure Prophylaxis “PEP” is a treatment with HIV medications thought to help reduce the chance of HIV taking hold in the body after a significant exposure to HIV.
PEP needs to be started within 72 hours of potential exposure to HIV so it’s vital you seek medical attention urgently if you’ve have any concerns such as a condom breaking during sex. HIV specialists, medical practices that specialise in HIV care as well as sexual health clinics can all help start the process of PEP.
Outside of office hours you can access post exposure prophylaxis by visiting the emergency department. Bigger hospitals with infectious disease units are usually better choices as they will have access to doctors familiar with the treatments and testing required.
If you have any questions about HIV prevention you can book to talk with Dr Forgan-Smith about HIV prevention and care.