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PEP prescribed outside of clinical guidlelines perpetuates HIV myths, says NAT

Friday, November 9, 2018

A new study from Germany has shown that over 10% of people given PEP (post-exposure prophylaxsis, a course of pills to prevent HIV directly after potential infection has occurred) were prescribed the drug outside of medical guidelines, often for emotional reassurance.

We know that the same thing occurs in the UK.

Deborah Gold, chief executive of NAT (National AIDS Trust) said:

“PEP is an important tool for HIV prevention, helping to protect those who have been at risk of HIV. It is easy to understand why PEP is sometimes used to comfort someone who is worried about HIV, however the long term solution is to combat the HIV stigma and misinformation that causes unnecessary distress about HIV in the first place.

“For instance, we are aware that police officers are often extremely fearful of HIV transmission after having been spat at or bitten, despite that fact that this is not an HIV risk. In these situations A&E doctors may feel under pressure to prescribe PEP to alleviate anxiety, however this will often make the officer feel they were right to be worried. These incidents are frequently covered in the press which can perpetuate the myth and cause others to have similar fear, and expect the same treatment.

“PEP is crucial for situations of genuine HIV risk, however where prescription is not supported by clinical guidelines the most effective treatment is information and reassurance from a clinician. This would also prevent confusion being passed on to family, friends, colleagues and the media.”

For more details or further comment, contact senior press officer Charlie Alderwick: charlie.alderwick@nat.org.uk 020 7814 6727

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NAT (National AIDS Trust) is the UK’s leading charity dedicated to transforming society’s response to HIV. We provide fresh thinking, expertise and practical resources. We champion the rights of people living with HIV and campaign for change.

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