There are many risks associated with working in remote regions or conflict areas, including the fact that individuals may be days away from adequate medical facilities. When it comes to possible exposure to the HIV/AIDs virus, intervention must take place within 72 hours in order to be effective. Unfortunately, cases of sexual assault are especially common in areas of conflict (especially for local populations, but also for aid workers), and those working in healthcare or first aid settings have higher chances of exposure to the HIV virus due to the nature of their work (for example, in the case of an accidental needle stick injury). If any of these unfortunate events takes place, it is essential to have access to a Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP) or Physical Assault kit in order to avoid the possible long-term consequences.
The following Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ’s) are designed to help equip you and your organisation to be better prepared to respond to the risk of exposure to HIV/AIDs.
What is the difference between PEP & Physical Assault Kit and how do I know which one to choose?
The use of language around kits varies, but at Medkits Global we describe them as follows:
- A PEP kit contains only anti-HIV medication and is, therefore, typically used for health workers at risk of blood exposure at work.
- A Physical Assault Kit contains a broader range of medication for use after a sexual assault, including HIV PEP, treatment for sexually transmitted infections, the emergency contraceptive pill, as well as medication to combat common side effects of the PEP.
Who are the kits designed for?
These kits are designed for individuals who are at risk of needle stick injury (PEP Kits) or sexual violence (Physical Assault Kit) and who do not have immediate access to good quality health facilities that would be able to provide these within a few hours of exposure to blood or bodily fluids.
How effective is PEP treatment?
The risk of acquiring HIV from sexual intercourse from an HIV positive person varies, but is generally very low – less than 1%. The HIV medication reduces the risk by about 70%. The morning after pill is 95% effective at reducing the risk of pregnancy, if taken within 12 hours of intercourse. Please note, Hepatitis B is 50 times more infectious than HIV. A vaccine booster for this is not in the kit as it requires refrigeration. This should be discussed with a doctor at the time.
How should a Physical Assault Kit & PEP be stored?
These kits should be stored in a safe, dry place and kept below 30 degrees Celsius. In locations where the temperature may increase beyond 30 degrees Celsius, we would recommend storing in a cooler box to stabilise the temperature. These can be supplied on request.
What is the difference between a 3 day and 7 day kit?
The full HIV prevention course is 28 days. However, everyone who starts PEP should be seen by a doctor for review within 3 days because PEP medication interacts with many other medications and can have serious side effects. Medkits Global provides starter packs of 3 or 7 days worth of medication in order to allow someone to start the medication soon after an incident and continue until they see a doctor who can discuss the risks and benefits of continuing the medication and can monitor for any side effects. It is absolutely necessary to see a medical professional following exposure to HIV/AIDs. Blood tests to monitor for these will be needed during and after the course of medication.
How should the kit be administered?
The kit should be administered under the guidance of a medical practitioner or doctor, who shall review whether the kit is required or not, whether it interacts with other medicines and any other side effects. If a doctor isn’t available where you are, Medkits Global can connect you with medical advice remotely by phone or skype to talk through the use of the kit.
Medkits Global is a trading name of Thrive Worldwide.
Please contact us (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you or your organization would like to take the next step in protecting yourself or your employees from the long-term consequences of exposure to the HIV/AIDs virus.