Whether it’s a failure of your local school district of applying an abstinence only policy during sex-ed, or your gym teacher’s approach of saying that having sex will result of you getting pregnant and dying, or even a failure of your parents in appropriately approaching “The Talk” without using a banana and a warm apple pie, someone forgot to teach many people an important lesson of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection prevention. What the Triangle wants you to know most important this week, kids, is about post-exposure prophylaxis.
There are many ways to get HIV, but there are a lot of ways that you can prevent it. HIV, as we hope you all know, can be spread through blood, semen, vaginal fluid, rectal fluid and pre-seminal fluid. You don’t get it by touching someone. You can even go into a full-on make-out session with a person, possibly swallowing close to a gallon of their saliva, and still not have a major risk of getting the virus. Oral sex is the least risky form of sex in terms of infection. Anal sex is the most. With the newest cocktails for HIV treatment, the risk of transmission for people who are positive can get pretty close to zero.
That isn’t exactly zero, however, and it shouldn’t encourage anyone to stop practicing safe sex methods and certainly shouldn’t prevent anyone from becoming aware of their options when they’re exposed. If you’re ever exposed to HIV for whatever reason, sexual or otherwise, the first thing you should do is go to the emergency room, preferably within the first hour, but definitely within the first three days. From there, the doctors should be performing a treatment called PEP (a treatment that has been in research since the late 80’s). It’s a month-long antiretroviral drug treatment (a combination of two or three drugs) that prepares the body’s immune system to fight the possible infection, its effectiveness depending on the timeliness of getting the treatment, the resistance of the virus, and the patient’s adherence to the treatment.
This treatment is effective for exposures to other sexually transmitted infections as well, such as hepatitis C, with other combinations for drugs (which is reportedly 100 times more infectious than HIV).
Take this in with a grain of salt. PEP is not 100 percent effective and it is usually given out as a last resort treatment only. You need to be pretty sure that you’re at risk of being infected to get it, otherwise you might have to pay a pretty penny for it. You need to still be practicing safe sex at all costs. But otherwise, enjoy this weekly newspaper’s duty in keeping the public informed about all of their options.