Post PEP Testing
Hi there & thank-you for your questions.
Post Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP) has been the standard of care in health care settings for many years now however, non-occupational use of PEP is relatively new. While we do know that acquiring HIV post-PEP is rare, we are not entirely sure yet just how effective of a preventative tool it is. As such, official guidelines concerning the use of PEP and recommendation around testing are lacking in most countries, provinces, states and regions in general.
Because not enough is known for certain about how PEP may or may not affect the body's normal ability to produce antibodies, should the medication fail and infection occurs, testing guidelines around when to test post PEP vary greatly.
Before PEP is started, consultation with a medical professional should occur & an individual is usually tested at the time to ensure there is no pre-existing HIV infection. Here at the Helpline, we follow what has been recommended by the BC Center for Excellence in HIV/AIDS which is a follow-up test at 3 months post exposure, 3 months post PEP and 6 months post PEP. In all of the cases of high risk exposure & where PEP was administered, the BC Center for Excellence has never seen a case where an individual tested negative 3 months post exposure or post PEP that later tested positive without any additional high risk exposures. So, your test results at 12 weeks post exposure will still be extremely accurate and indicative of your status however based on that fact that you are certain that it was a high risk exposure and because you took PEP, re-testing at the 6 month mark is mostly a precaution.
In Canada, OraQuick tests are not approved for use & we do actively discourage individuals from ordering these tests online. Although they can be quite accurate, they have a much higher rate of false positives & there is no opportunity for post test councilling, should the results be positive. So, as long as you have received your Oraquick results by a certified medical professional at a reputable clinic or hospital, your results are extremely indicative of your status.
While it may be human nature to attempt to link symptoms with a particular infection or diagnosis, it is important not to do this with HIV infection. This is because not all individuals experience symptoms at all. If they do, it is generally 2-6 weeks post exposure and after that, there should be no recurring symptoms or chronic conditions. The symptoms you are experiencing may be the side effect of PEP: it is the same treatment as people living with HIV and HAART can be very harsh on the body, especially on the liver and kidneys. Please partner with a medical professional you trust to try to accurately discover the true cause of these symptoms.
I hope this helps & if you have any other questions regarding HIV and/or PEP, please feel free to call, email or re-post online. I have also included some links/further reading you may be interested in below.
AIDS Vancouver Helpline
604-696-4666, Monday-Friday 9am-4pm
The AIDS Vancouver Helpline is a volunteer-driven information, referral and support service related to HIV and sexual health. Volunteers are trained in active listening, HIV and sexual health information, and local resources and services. Volunteers are not doctors, nurses, or other licensed professionals. Volunteers do not give advice, and strive to provide service-users with adequate information and appropriate referrals.
Helpline volunteers uphold the agency’s confidentiality and privacy policies. Your calls, forum posts, and emails are anonymous. We welcome you to use a pseudonym or “fake name” when using Helpline services. We will not ask for or track your personal information. To ensure that the Helpline program is providing quality services, the Helpline Coordinator regularly monitors online content (forum posts and emails) and supervises volunteers who are receiving calls.
The Helpline Program should not be used in replacement of medical examination, diagnosis, advice counseling or follow-up care. We strongly recommend routine testing (HIV and STI tests) and discussing your healthcare directly with a physician.
We would love to hear from you! If you have feedback or questions related to the operations of the Helpline, please contact David at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 604.696.4666.