Unprotected sex with someone you don’t know that well may not have been on your ‘To Do List’ last night, but it happened. Here’s what to do about it now.
Maybe you drank too many ‘mojitos’ or you left your condoms in your other jeans, or the guy was so incredibly hot that you couldn’t control yourself. There are many reasons that good, intelligent and otherwise responsible people have unprotected sex, despite the obvious risks involved. It is not ideal behaviour, but in the harsh light of day, there are still things you can do to take care of yourself and prevent the situation becoming more complicated than it is.
- Don’t panic! You have 72 hours after exposure (the sex you had) to get to your healthcare provider or local Health4Men Clinic to start post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP). PEP is an ARV treatment that lasts for 28 days that can lower your risk of HIV infection by 80%
- “But I’m broke!” Don’t worry, if you go to a Health4Men Clinic the treatment is free
- What are the side-effects? PEP does have some side-effects like nausea, stomach cramps and fatigue but they are all worth it if it prevents you from becoming infected with HIV, which (although completely manageable) would be something you’d have to manage for the rest of your life
- Consider going on PrEP in future. Once you have completed your PEP treatment, you may want to consider going onto pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) over a more extended period. PrEP has way fewer reported side-effects than PEP does and when used in conjunction with condoms and water-based lube, it becomes a powerful combination prevention strategy to ensure that you stay HIV-negative
- If you’ve been on PrEP for more than seven days and taking your pills when you should, you can protect yourself from HIV infection by up to 90% even if you have unprotected sex as a “bottom.”
- PrEP and PEP are effective ways to prevent HIV infection, but they do not protect you from any other sexually transmitted infections like syphilis, gonorrhoea and chlamydia. Condoms are still a good way to prevent those
Bruce J. Little is a contributing writer for Anova Health Institute.