What is PEP (Post Exposure Prophylaxis)?
PEP is short for post exposure prophylaxis. It is any prophylactic (preventive) treatment started immediately after exposure to blood or bodily fluid contaminated with a pathogen (such as a disease-causing virus), in order to prevent infection and the development of disease.
Although multiple diseases can be transmitted from exposure to blood, the most serious infections are hepatitis B virus (HBV), hepatitis C virus (HCV), and HIV. Fortunately, the risk of acquiring any of these infections is low.
In order to be exposed to a bloodborne pathogen, you must have contact with blood, a visibly bloody fluid (i.e., phlegm or urine containing blood), or another bodily fluid (i.e., semen or vaginal secretions) that contain an infectious organism (virus or bacteria). The blood or fluid must come in direct contact with some part of your body. A virus can enter your body through the bloodstream, open skin, or mucous membranes, which include the eye, mouth, or genitals. Contact with skin that is intact (without new cuts, scrapes, or rashes) poses no risk of infection.
Thus, exposure to a bloodborne pathogen is possible after:
Infected Blood and/or Bodily Fluid
Anyone who is exposed to potentially infected blood or bodily fluids should be tested for HIV at the time of exposure (baseline) and at six weeks, three months, and six months after exposure.
The baseline HIV test is necessary (and required) to document that the HIV infection was not already present at the time of the incident. Experts from the United States Center for Disease Control recommend use of medications to reduce the risk of HIV infection if all of the following criteria are met:
However, the CDC also recommends that each situation be considered on an individual basis; preventive treatment may be recommended to people who do not meet these criteria in some situations.
The CDC recommends NOT using preventive treatment when: