Guidelines for Taking Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP) Medicines

Because hospitals and clinics offer a variety of different anti-retroviral medicines, as well as other medicines to prevent other types of sexually transmitted infection or pregnancy, it can be confusing for rape survivors to keep track of all the medications they need to take after being raped. Rape survivors are often in a state of shock and confusion directly after a rape and may find it difficult to remember all the details about their medicines.

It is very important to take all of these medicines exactly as the doctor or nurse tells you, or they may not work properly. These tips can help you with taking your various pills.

  • Ask a health-care worker to write down all the instructions for taking the medicine so that you are not confused about anything later
  • Anti-retroviral medicine must be taken for the full 28 days. Try your very best not to skip a dose.
  • Try to plan your pill schedule according to your daily activities, so that you don’t forget
  • If you forget to take your pills, don’t take a double-dose next time, ARV-medicine is very strong and you might feel very sick
  • Anti-retroviral medicines for children under 12 are usually syrups and are taken according to a child’s bodyweight
  • Pills need to be taken at the same time every day. Take your pills with meals, not on an empty stomach
  • It can be easier if you set an alarm on your cell-phone to ring to remind you when to take the pills
  • Keep a diary or calendar and tick off when you have taken your pills
  • Eating yoghurt can help with nausea
  • Avoid alcohol and drink lots of water
  • If you vomit up pills directly after taking them, you need to take a new dose, and get more pills from the clinic to replace those that were lost
  • Most clinics give enough pills for 7 days and expect you to return for more. If this is too difficult, ask them to give you enough medicine for the full 28 days

Side Effects of taking anti-retroviral medicines

ARVs can make you feel very unwell, but these symptoms usually improve after a few days. If you feel very sick, do not stop taking the medication but see a healthcare worker for advice on how to cope with the side effects. Some of these side effects are also from stress after a rape. Common side effects are:

  • Tiredness and dizziness
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Headaches
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Muscle pain
  • Stomach pains

Some of these pains will improve if you take an ordinary pain-killer like Aspirin or Paracetamol. You can also take Valoid to help with the nausea

3 comments on “Guidelines for Taking Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP) Medicines
  1. LORRAINE GAMEDE says:

    i need to know if there are after effect after taking arvs after 28 days,if you are hiv negative

    • Niki says:

      Arv side effects should stop soon after you stop taking them but if you are still experiencing effects, please go back to the clinic that gave them to you and ask for advice

      • Alice says:

        I took PEP after being sexually assaulted and I only started to feel sick after the first week. I think we need more accurate information on the side-effects of PEP so people know what to expect.