The charity’s team at this year’s event on September 1 will be handing out free condoms and reminding gay and bisexual men that PEP treatment is available throughout Pride weekend for those who are worried they have put themselves at risk.
Sexual health clinics in the Brighton area and local accident and emergency departments will have extra supplies of PEP treatment over the Pride weekend to ensure that people who are concerned can access the treatment swiftly.
PEP is a short course of anti-HIV drugs that is prescribed after a potential exposure to HIV. After HIV gets into someone’s bloodstream, it can take anywhere between a few hours and a few days before it infects them permanently. If someone takes PEP within that short time, they may be able to stop HIV before the infection takes hold. The faster it’s taken after someone has put themselves at risk, the more likely it will work.
The month-long treatment course can have side-effects including diarrhoea, nausea and severe headaches.
Despite PEP drugs having been available for HIV prevention since the early to mid 1990s, when PEP was prescribed largely for health workers with sharps injuries, more than 40 per cent of men who answered the Gay Men’s Health Survey in 2007 said they had not heard of PEP.
Ross Boseley, Health Promotion Coordinator for Terrence Higgins Trust in Brighton, said:
“We can’t wait to join the crowds for what promises to be an exciting Pride event. But we’re also keen to help this year’s revellers ensure they don’t let unsafe sex spoil the party.
“The side effects of PEP are not to be taken lightly and the drug is by no means a substitute for condoms. However it’s important men know that they can access this treatment if they are worried that they have been exposed to HIV. It’s also critical that anyone who thinks they’ve been exposed acts fast – PEP treatment must begin within at least 72 hours, but the sooner you can take it, the more likely it is to work.”
Terrence Higgins Trust’s Brighton team will be handing out condoms, leaflets and information about PEP throughout Pride.
Staff, volunteers and supporters will also be taking part in the parade and Terrence Higgins Trust’s team will have a stall in the community village, where people pick up free condoms and get information and advice about sexual health.
Anyone who is concerned they may have been exposed to the HIV virus and needs to access PEP treatment in an emergency should contact the Claude Nicol Clinic on (01273) 664721 as quickly as possible.
For general information and advice about PEP, sexual health and HIV, contact Terrence Higgins Trust in Brighton (01273) 764 200.