Photo by Sora Shimazaki from Pexels
Photo by Sora Shimazaki from Pexels

What you need to know about Amenorrhea

Amenorrhea refers to the absence of or seizing of the menstrual flow due to several factors such as health conditions, birth control use, and most commonly, pregnancy.

There are two types of amenorrhea.

1. Primary amenorrhea: This refers to the absence of a menstrual period in a girl who has/is exhibiting puberty but hasn’t gotten a period by the age of 15. Hormones, problems with the reproductive organs are usually the main cause of primary amenorrhea. 

2. Secondary amenorrhea: This occurs in women who have had menstrual flows previously, which later stops for three to four months consecutively. The most common cause of secondary amenorrhea is pregnancy, though other factors can cause a woman’s period to seize.

 

Pregnancy is not the only cause of secondary Amenorrhea | Love Matters Naija
Photo by Alex Green

 

Main Causes

The causes of amenorrhea differ from each other. The causes of primary amenorrhea are different from the factors that cause secondary amenorrhea.

 

The most common causes of primary amenorrhea include:

 

1. Genetic conditions: A few genetic conditions like Turner Syndrome can cause amenorrhea. Turner syndrome occurs only in female humans and it is when one of the X chromosomes is missing or partially missing. It also causes a delay in puberty, amongst some other disabilities. Other conditions which can cause amenorrhea are AIS (androgen insensitivity syndrome) which causes an overproduction of testosterone.

 

2. Disorders of the reproductive organs namely the ovaries and/or uterus.

 

The causes of secondary amenorrhea are more extensive. The most common reason is pregnancy, but other causes include:

  • Birth Control
  • Physical and Mental Stress
  • Gynaecological or Reproductive (Organ) Disorder
  • Chronic Illness
  • Extreme Weight Changes
  • (Peri)menopause

 

Possible Treatments

The treatment plans for amenorrhea largely depends on what type it is (primary or secondary) and also the cause.

For primary amenorrhea, surgery may be needed to repair reproductive organs and/or genetic conditions.

In the case of secondary amenorrhea, the reason is first ascertained before a possible solution is prescribed. If amenorrhea is caused by birth control or drastic lifestyle changes like extensive exercise, physical stress or weight loss, doctors may prescribe an alternative contraceptive and suggest lifestyle changes.

For both primary or secondary amenorrhea, the first point of call should be a visit to the doctor or gynaecologist to determine what could be wrong. Self-medication is not advised.

 

Further Studies on Amenorrhea in Nigerian Women

There have been independent studies of women in Nigeria living with amenorrhea.

For instance, a study on amenorrhea in women, which was carried in 2017 at the Usmanu Danfodiyo University Teaching (UDUTH), Sokoto, Nigeria, borders on the physical symptoms and emotional effects experienced by persons living with this condition.

However, this research is limited to a few women in Northern Nigeria who speak English and Hausa, and may not apply to other women or other genders experiencing amenorrhea in the country.

 

 

If you have more questions on amenorrhea and/or menstruation-related topics, kindly leave a comment below or reach out to our Moderators on our Facebook Page.

Marie Stopes Nigeria

 

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What are Emergency Contraceptives?

Emergency contraception is a post-sex method of birth control. That means if you are not already on contraceptives or didn’t use condoms or even if you did and it did not work properly, emergency contraception can help prevent unplanned pregnancy if used immediately after unprotected sex.

Emergency contraceptive pills are sometimes called the morning-after pill, but this is a misnomer because you do not have to wait till the morning after sex to use. 

Emergency contraceptive pills are a safe and effective method of preventing unplanned pregnancy if you had unprotected sex. Also, you could use contraceptive pills in situations where the contraceptives you already were using failed or if you had just been sexually assaulted.

Emergency contraceptive pills are not to be confused with abortion pills as they do not terminate a pregnancy, they only help prevent pregnancy before it happens.

Also, note that emergency contraceptive pills do not protect against HIV or other sexually transmittable infections. Use a condom if you are at risk of contracting an STI.

 

When should I consider Emergency Contraception?

  1. If you had unprotected sex and you want to prevent an unplanned pregnancy.
  2. If you had desired to use contraceptives but failed to follow through
  3. If there was a contraceptive failure. For example, a condom broke, if there was a diaphragm or cervical cap breakage, or a barrier contraceptive slippage
  4. If birth control pills, patches, rings, or injections were started late or dislodged.
  5. If there was a failed withdrawal
  6. If there was an expulsion of IUD or implant
  7. If you were sexually assaulted. That is if you were forced to have sex when you did not want to.

 

Side effects of Emergency Contraception

As earlier stated, emergency contraception pills are safe and an effective way of preventing unplanned pregnancy. However, you might react to drugs, but the chances are slim, and the side effects are rarely serious. Here are some side effects you might experience from using emergency contraception:

  • You might experience nausea and might even vomit right after taking the contraceptive pill. You can always speak to your health care provider for drugs that could alleviate the feeling of nausea.
  • Headache
  • Heavy or irregular bleeding
  • Dizziness
  • Breast pain
  • Stomach pain
  • Fatigue

These side effects are usually mild and do not last long. Your next menstrual period might come light or early, and you might bleeding might be heavy or light.

 

How does one get Emergency Contraception?

Just walk into any pharmaceutical store in Nigeria and ask for Postinor. Postinor is the brand name for the emergency contraceptive pill available across the country, and it is made mainly with levonorgestrel. It can be sold to anyone from 18 and older without a prescription and is affordable.

 

How quickly should one take Emergency Contraception?
 

As earlier stated, it is best to take it immediately after unprotected sex, as soon as possible. Also, do remember that mixing salt and water and taking it as emergency contraception as commonly practised in Nigeria has not been proven by any study to be effective.

Marie Stopes Nigeria

 

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What you need to know about the HPV vaccine

There are a lot of misconceptions surrounding HPV and the vaccine. Here is all you need to know about the HPV vaccine.

The human papillomavirus is a large family of viruses that are responsible for causing several cancers. Cells are basic units of life that make up every part of our bodies. They are designed to live, grow and die at a specific point in time. When cells refuse to heed the signal to die and begin to grow without control, this is called cancer. Human papillomaviruses cause a variety of cancers including cancers of the head and neck areas, anal cancers and genital warts, and cervical cancer.

Cervical cancer is the second commonest cancer in women worldwide. It ranks as the 2nd most frequent cancer among women with around 600 000 new infections in 2018. Every year more than 300 000 women die from cervical cancer, more than 85% of these deaths are in low and middle-income countries like Nigeria because of poor access to screening and treatment services.

The Human papillomaviruses are typically spread via sexual contact and by any skin-to-skin contact. They are usually found on the fingers, hands, mouth and genitals. This means that sexual activity limited to just touching or the use of sex toys may also cause a transmission of the virus. Most sexually active people will get HPV at some point in their lives.

Most people can fight off the HPV infection with no hassles but some people do not effectively get rid of the infection and it causes changes to cells of their bodies that may lead to cancer. There are over 150 viruses in the HPV family and each one is called a type. They are commonly in moist areas of the body like the vagina, anus, cervix, vulva, inner foreskin and urethra of the penis. HPV types 16 and 18 are termed “high risk” because they are responsible for the greatest share of cancers and genital warts.

 

What are the different types of HPV vaccines?

There are two main types of the HPV vaccine, designed to prevent the most common types of human papillomavirus. These are:

  1. Gardasil: Has two subtypes.
  2. Cervarix

These vaccines can prevent up to 90% of HPV infections, reducing the risk of having genital warts, precancerous lesions and cervical cancer.  They also offer long-term protection against new HPV infections.

 

Who should receive the HPV vaccine?

The ideal age group for recipients of the HPV vaccines are pre-teenagers between the ages of 11 to 13. Research has shown that the HPV vaccines cause the strongest immune response in this age group and as such are most effective then. It is also important because exposure to the virus may not have happened at this age. However, the vaccines are noted to be beneficial to older persons and those who have had sexual intercourse.

The HPV vaccines are given in two (2) doses, at least six (6) months apart but up to 24 months after the first dose into the upper arm. This is given to boys and girls in their pre-teens. In persons older than 15 years of age, three (3) doses of the vaccines are required. These shots are given at the first visit, 2 months after the first dose and 6 months after the first dose.

The following persons should not receive HPV vaccines:

  1. People who had a severe allergic reaction to an earlier dose of the HPV vaccine or the constituent of the vaccine
  2. People with a yeast allergy (some HPV vaccines may be given to these people)
  3. Pregnant women.
  4. A moderately or severely ill person.

Men who have sex with other men and transwomen are encouraged to speak with their healthcare provider regarding HPV vaccinations due to an increase of infections with the HPV vaccine.

 

Are there any side effects of the vaccine?

There are side effects that may occur after receiving the HPV vaccine. However, they are uncommon and typically mild. The most commonly encountered side effects are:

  1. Pain or redness at the area of the injection
  2. Muscle or joint pain
  3. Fever
  4. Swelling at the site of the injection
  5. Nausea
  6. Headaches or fatigue

 

What tests do I need to do before receiving the vaccine?

An HPV test is not necessary before the test because it does not show the type of HPV infection you have and the vaccine may be able to prevent you from other types of HPV that you are not currently exposed to.

 

How long will the vaccine be valid?

A concise timeline for when the HPV vaccine wears off has not been identified but it is thought to be life-long or effective for at least 10 years. Speak with your healthcare provider if you think you need booster shots.

 

Do I still need cervical cancer screening after receiving the vaccine?

Although the HPV vaccine is very effective, it is not able to prevent all forms of the HPV virus. Hence, you will still need to carry out cervical cancer screening - regular cervical cancer screening (Pap and HPV tests) and follow-up.

 

Do you have more questions about having getting the HPV vaccine, especially in this pandemic? You can reach out to our Moderators on our Facebook Page and we will respond.

Marie Stopes Nigeria

 

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How to Celebrate Valentine During a Pandemic

By Dika Ofoma Tuesday, February 9, 2021 - 08:57
The unfortunate COVID-19 pandemic riddling the world had necessitated a lifestyle change in many areas of life, including our relationships. As the season of love draws near, here are ways you can celebrate that special day with your partner.
The unfortunate COVID-19 pandemic riddling the world had necessitated a lifestyle change in many areas of life, including our relationships. As the season of love draws near, here are ways you can celebrate that special day with your partner.

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All you need to know about getting a Vasectomy

A vasectomy is a birth control option for men that involves a small surgery. The procedure stops sperm from getting to the semen during ejaculation.

The man would still be able to orgasm and ejaculate, but with no sperm entering, he won’t be able to impregnate a woman. It is sometimes referred to as male sterilization.

For men who are certain that they do not want to father any child in the future or are done fathering children, Vasectomy is a safe and effective birth control option. The operation is almost 100 per cent effective in preventing pregnancy. It is an outpatient surgery and has a very low risk of complications or side effects. Vasectomies are also less costly than female sterilization (tubal litigation) or the long-term cost of birth control medications for women.

 

Side Effects of Vasectomy

A major problem with vasectomy is that you could change your mind about fathering children right after surgery. While it is sometimes reversible, it is not guaranteed and the procedure is expensive. You must be certain about not fathering children before deciding on vasectomy.

Here are some possible side effects right after surgery:

  • Swelling
  • Bruises around the scrotum
  • Bleeding inside the scrotum
  • Infection
  • Mild pain or discomfort

 

What to do after surgery

Once you’ve returned from the hospital and home, take it easy:

  • Do not exert yourself for a whole day. Just rest. In less than a week, you would have fully recovered from the mild pain and discomfort. You would even be able to resume work three days after surgery.
  • You might feel sore for a few days. You can ease swelling and pain with an ice pack.

Frequently asked questions about Vasectomy

A lot of men worry that vasectomy could cause serious problems, however, the surgical procedure is safe and complications are very rare. Here are a few frequently asked questions and concerns about vasectomy.

1. Can I have sex ever again?

Yes. But give it a few days after surgery. You should use birth controls until you get tested and sure that your semen is free of sperm.

2. Would a vasectomy affect my sexual performance?

No. A vasectomy won’t affect your sexual drive. It only works to prevent you from fathering children.

3. Would it damage my sexual organs?

It is almost impossible that your penis, testicles, or any other part of your reproductive system will be damaged or injured during the surgery. In very extreme cases, injury to the blood supply could lead to the loss of a testicle, but that is unlikely to happen if the surgeon is a professional.

4. Does a vasectomy protect against STI?

No. A vasectomy only prevents you from fathering children. You would still need condoms to protect against HIV and other sexually transmitted infections.

5. Would a vasectomy put me at the risk of certain cancers?

No. While there have been concerns about a possible link between vasectomy and testicular or prostate cancer in the past, studies and research haven’t proved it.

6. Can a vasectomy be reversed?

Sometimes. As earlier mentioned, reversing a vasectomy is hard and can’t guarantee that you would be able to father children after it. It is why you must be sure about your decision not to father a child before deciding on getting a vasectomy.

Marie Stopes Nigeria

 

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What is Urinary Tract Infection?

A urinary tract infection (UTI) is an infection in any part of your urinary system, which includes your kidneys, bladder, ureters, and urethra.

Most UTIs affect the lower urinary tract, that is, the bladder and urethra. UTIs have far damning consequences when they spread or occur in the kidneys.
 

Women are at a higher risk of UTI infection than men. However, there are a few steps to take to prevent a urinary tract infection. 


Symptoms of UTI

Signs and symptoms of a urinary tract infection include:

  • A burning feeling when urinating
  • An intense and frequent urge to urinate and usually in small amounts
  • Cloudy and strong-smelling urine
  • Bloody urine
  • Fatigue
  • Lower belly pain in women
  • Fever and chills (usually an indication that the infection has become serious and might have spread to the kidneys)

 

Types of UTI

Each of the types of urinary tract infections has a more specific sign and symptom.

  1. Cystitis: This is the name of the UTI in the bladder. Signs and symptoms of this type of UTI include frequent urination, cloudy or bloody urine, and pelvic pain.
  2. Urethritis: just as the name implies, this is the type of UTI in the urethra. Signs and symptoms include a burning sensation when urinating and discharge.
  3. Pyelonephritis: This is UTI in the kidney and is a more serious case of UTI. Its symptoms include chills, fever, nausea, fatigue.

You should see a doctor as soon as you notice any of these symptoms.

 

Causes of UTI

Urinary tract infections usually occur when bacteria enter the urinary tract from the urethra and begin to spread in the bladder. Even though the urinary system functions to block out such microscopic invaders, these defenses can fail sometimes. From there, the infection, if not treated, can move up and infect your kidneys.

The infection is often caused by a bacteria known as E.colli from the large intestine. When this bacteria moves from the anus to the urethra, UTI happens. It is also because the urethra in women is shorter, which makes it easier for the bacteria to move from there. Often, what introduces the bacteria to the urinary tract is sex.

 

Prevention of UTI

Here are a few steps to take to reduce the risk of urinary tract infections:

  • Drink a lot of fluids, especially water. Drinking enough water ensures that you urinate frequently, allowing the bacteria to be flushed out of your system before the infection can hold.
  • Wipe from front to back after urination or after a bowel movement helps to prevent bacteria from the anal region from spreading to the vagina and urethra.
  • It's also advised urinating immediately after sex, as it would help flush out whatever bacteria might have gotten there during intercourse.
  • Avoid using products like deodorant or douches and powders in the genital area, as this could irritate the urethra.
  • Birth control methods such as diaphragms, spermicide-coated condoms could put women at risk of infection. You might want to avoid these methods and try other birth control options.


UTI Tests and Diagnosis

If you’ve noticed that you are experiencing any of the symptoms mentioned and suspect that you have UTI, see a doctor immediately. You would be asked to give a urine sample to test for UTI-causing bacteria.

If you get UTIs more than once in a year and your doctor suspects a problem in your urinary tract, you might be requested to take an ultrasound, a CT scan, or an MRI scan. This is often to determine if any damages have been done to your kidney.


Treatment of UTI

Antibiotics are the most common treatment for urinary tract infections. You would need to take all prescribed dosage even after you start to feel better. It also helps to drink a lot of water to help flush the bacteria out of your system.

If urinary tract infection recurs and becomes frequent, your doctor might make certain recommendations that include a longer period of antibiotic medication.

Marie Stopes Nigeria

 

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Ectopic Pregnancy

Ectopic pregnancy, also called extrauterine pregnancy, occurs when a fertilized egg grows outside a woman’s uterus.

In a tubal or normal pregnancy, fertilization occurs in the fallopian tubes, where an egg, or ovum, meets a sperm cell. The fertilized egg then travels into the uterus and becomes implanted in the womb lining. The embryo develops into a fetus and remains in the uterus until birth.

In an ectopic pregnancy, the symptoms start showing after 4 to 10 weeks to indicate an abnormal pregnancy. A fertilized egg cannot survive outside the womb, therefore it will not survive an ectopic pregnancy. Most often, the pregnancy cannot be saved. Rupture of the fallopian tube can occur after between 6 and 16 weeks of pregnancy. A ruptured fallopian tube can, however, be treated successfully.

 

Causes

  • Infections - inflammations and infections of the fallopian tube, uterus, or ovaries can increase the risk of subsequent ectopic pregnancies. Ectopic pregnancy is also linked to pelvic inflammatory disease (PID).
  • Sexually Transmitted Infections - Some sexually transmitted infections (STIs) increase the risk of PID, such as gonorrhea or chlamydia. PID can lead to ectopic pregnancy.
  • Age: The older a woman is when she becomes pregnant, the higher the risk of an ectopic pregnancy.
  • Smoking: Smoking increases the risk of ectopic pregnancy.

 

Symptoms

  • Severe pain on one side of the abdomen
  • Vaginal bleeding: The blood is often lighter or darker than during menstrual bleeding, and usually less viscous. If a woman does not know that she is pregnant, she may confuse vaginal bleeding for menstrual blood.
  • Shoulder tip pain: This is a sign of internal bleeding. The bleeding may irritate the phrenic nerve which leads to pain in the shoulder.
  • Pain when passing urine or faeces
  • Fainting or collapse: The rupture of the fallopian tubes may cause a woman to faint or collapse leading to a medical emergency.

 

Treatments

Ectopic pregnancies aren’t safe for both the mother and embryo. It’s crucial to remove the embryo fast to save the mother’s life and ensure long-term fertility. Treatment options vary depending on the location of the ectopic pregnancy and its development. The most common medication is Methotrexate (Rheumatrex).

Methotrexate is a drug that stops the growth of rapidly dividing cells, such as the cells of the ectopic mass. The doctor will give you this medication as an injection. When effective, the medication will cause symptoms that are similar to a miscarriage which includes cramping, bleeding and passing of the tissue. Compared to surgery, Methotrexate does not bear the risk of fallopian tube damage. However, you won’t be able to get pregnant for several months after taking this medication.

 

Other forms of treatments include:

  • Surgery – The surgical procedure of removing the embryo and repairing any internal damage is known as laparotomy. The doctor inserts a small camera through a small incision to make sure they can see their work. Then the embryo is removed and any damage to the fallopian tube is repaired. If the surgery is unsuccessful, laparotomy procedure may be repeated but through a larger incision. Your doctor may also need to remove the fallopian tube during surgery if it’s damaged.
  • Home care – This involves specific instructions regarding the care of your incisions after surgery. The main goals are to ensure your incisions clean and dry while they heal. Also, check them daily for infection signs, which could include excessive bleeding, foul-smelling drainage from the site, redness and swelling. Expect some light vaginal bleeding and small blood clots after surgery. This can occur up to six weeks after the procedure.
  • Other self-care measures - don’t lift anything heavier than 10 pounds and drink plenty of fluids to prevent constipation.
  • Pelvic rest, which means refraining from sexual intercourse, tampon use, and douching. Rest as much as possible especially the first week of post-surgery, and then increase activity in the next weeks as tolerated. Always notify your doctor if your pain increases or you feel something is out of the ordinary.
Marie Stopes Nigeria

 

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Love Matters | Rita Lino

What Infections Can Affect Pregnancy?

It is very important that during pregnancy, women stay healthy and protected, to guard against infections that might affect the pregnancy and cause further complications.

Pregnancy is a defining moment in a woman’s life which is characterized by physiological changes in the body. It can also make women more vulnerable to some infections, and in some cases, make these infections more severe.

Vaginal and uterine infections are the most common forms that affect pregnancies and we will explore them in this article.

Vaginal Infections
Vaginal Yeast Infection

This is caused by a fungus known as candida. Vaginal yeast infections tend to occur during pregnancy as a result of changes in the immune system, increased production of glycogen, and higher estrogen levels. It occurs more often during the second and third trimesters. Symptoms of vaginal yeast infection include itchiness around the vagina/vulva, thick, white vaginal discharge and pain or burning in or around the vagina amongst others.

Group B Streptococcus (GBS)

This is caused by a bacterium known as group B streptococcus. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Trusted Source, about 1 in 4 women have a GBS infection. The infection can cause internal inflammation and also stillbirth in pregnant women. It is often transmitted during vaginal deliveries, as the bacterium may be present in the mother’s vagina or rectum. Babies infected with GBS can develop potentially life-threatening infections such as sepsis, pneumonia, and meningitis.

Bacterial Vaginosis

It is the most common vaginal infection in women of reproductive age. It increases the risk of contracting sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and may play a role in preterm labour. Bacterial vaginosis results from a change in the balance of bacteria that live in the vagina. Having unprotected sex and douching can increase the risk of bacterial vaginosis.

Uterine Infections
Chorioamnionitis

This is a bacterial infection that occurs before or during labour. It occurs when bacteria infect the chorion, amnion, and amniotic fluid around the fetus. This infection results from when bacteria that are typically present in the vagina ascend into the uterus, where the fetus is located. Some symptoms of chorioamnionitis include fever, rapid heartbeat, uterine tenderness and discoloured and foul-smelling amniotic fluid. Babies delivered to mothers with chorioamnionitis can be predisposed to meningitis, pneumonia and other life-threatening conditions.

Other Infections
Hepatitis B

This is a virus that affects the liver, it can be is spread by having sex with an infected person without using a condom, or by direct contact with infected blood. If you have hepatitis B or are infected during pregnancy, you can transmit the infection on to your baby at birth.

Herpes

This is a sexually transmitted disease that can be contracted through vaginal, anal and oral sex, it is dangerous to a newborn baby. It can be treated if the infection occurs during pregnancy. However, if the infection occurs towards the end of pregnancy or during labour, a caesarean section may be recommended to reduce the risk of transmitting herpes on to your baby.

HIV

Evidence shows that an HIV-positive mother who is healthy and without symptoms of the infection is unlikely to be adversely affected by pregnancy. However, HIV can be transmitted from a pregnant woman to her baby during pregnancy, birth or breastfeeding. If you're diagnosed with HIV, have a discussion with your doctor regarding the management of your pregnancy and birth to reduce the risk of infection for your baby. Treatment in pregnancy greatly reduces the risk of transmitting on HIV to the baby – from 1 in 4 to less than 1 in 100. Your baby will be tested for HIV at birth and at regular intervals for up to 2 years.

Zika Virus

It causes birth defects especially if a woman contracts the virus when she's pregnant. Zika virus can cause the baby to have an abnormally small head also known as microcephaly. High-risk areas prone to the virus include South or Central America, the Caribbean, Southeast Asia and the Pacific region (Fiji). Zika is spread by mosquitoes, the risk of mosquito bites can be reduced by using insect repellent and wearing loose clothing that covers both your arms and legs.

If you have more questions on how infections affect pregnancies, kindly reach out to our Moderators on our Facebook Page and we will respond.

Marie Stopes Nigeria

 

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Love Matters

What is PEP?

Post-exposure prophylaxis or PEP is different from PrEP in the way that it is administered. Here is what you need to know about PEP.

PEP is short for post-exposure prophylaxis. The word "prophylaxis" means the prevention of or protective treatment against disease or infection. The term post-exposure prophylaxis implying treatment after exposure.

PEP is a temporary antiretroviral (ARV) treatment administered to reduce the chances of HIV infection after possible exposure which could have happened through healthcare work or outside of a healthcare environment, through unprotected sex or rape. It should be offered as early as possible to anyone who has been potentially exposed within 72 hours.

Who should take PEP?

PEP is administered to HIV negative individuals who have, in the last 72 hours (3 days), been accidentally exposed to HIV whether as healthcare workers or outside the healthcare environment, for instance, through unprotected sex, shared a needle or sexual assault.

PEP is intended for emergency situations like those mentioned above. It is not intended for constant use by people who may be frequently exposed to HIV, for instance, MSM (men who have sex with men), PSID (people who Inject drugs), sex workers. PEP isn't a replacement for regular use of other HIV prevention methods, such as steady condom-use during sex or pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP). PrEP is the prophylaxis taken daily for the prevention of HIV infection.

 

When should PEP be taken?

For it to be effective, PEP has to be started within 72 hours (3 days) of possible exposure. The earlier it's started, the better. If started immediately after exposure, PEP can reduce the risk of HIV infection by more than 80%. The treatment takes a full 28-day course and adherence to it is instrumental to the effectiveness of the intervention.

 

How effective is PEP?

Corroborating evidence on the effectiveness of PEP has been difficult. However, PEP is most effective in preventing HIV infection when it’s taken immediately after exposure and correctly: This is when those potentially exposed to the virus do not miss doses and complete the full 28-day course. Effectiveness also relies on the time when treatment started, while it should be started within 72 hours, it's better if it's started early enough. 

It's also been found that the most common cause of HIV infection in people who take PEP is on-going risk behaviour. It's important that while taking PEP, potentially-exposed people should keep using other HIV-preventive methods such as using only new, sterile needles when injecting drugs, and using condoms with their sexual partner(s) as unprotected sex could further expose them to HIV while using PEP.

 

What medicines are used for PEP?

PEP is usually made up of three anti-HIV drugs. WHO recommendations are, for adults: Tenofovir mixed with either lamivudine (3TC) or emtricitabine (FTC) as preferred backbone drugs. The recommended third drug is ritonavir-boosted lopinavir (LPV/r).

The alternative drugs for kids are, Zidovudine (AZT) and lamivudine (3TC) backbone drugs for children below the age of 10, and for the third drug choice, ritonavir-boosted lopinavir (LPV/r) is recommended.

There are also recommendations for other specific groups such as adolescents, pregnant women or people with kidney problems. Your health care provider should be able to determine which medicines to take for PEP.

 

What are the side effects?

HIV treatment may cause side effects in some people which tend to be worse at the start of the treatment. However, the side effects are not life-threatening and can be treated. The side effects include feelings such as dizziness, diarrhoea and fatigue. It's advised to speak to a healthcare provider if you are uncomfortable with the side effects and if they have persisted over time. 

Do you have more questions about PEP? Reach out to our Moderators on our Facebook Page and they will answer your questions.

Marie Stopes Nigeria

 

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What is PrEP?

Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) helps to prevent individuals from new HIV infections. Here is all you need to know about PrEP.

PrEP means pre-exposure prophylaxis. It is a daily medication taken by those who are at the risk of HIV to prevent contracting the HIV infection. The medication can stop HIV from taking hold and spreading throughout the body. If taken religiously, PrEP is very effective in preventing HIV from sex. In fact, research has shown that when taken as prescribed, that is the daily intake, PrEP is 99% efficient at reducing the risk of HIV transmission from sex. For those who inject drugs, it's 74% efficient.

 

Who should take PrEP?

PrEP was developed for HIV-negative individuals at the risk of getting infected with the virus. The drug is essential for gay/bisexual men with an HIV-positive partner, or have multiple sex partners, or a partner whose status is unknown; especially if they have unprotected anal sex.

PrEP is also recommended for sex workers or any heterosexual with an HIV-positive partner, or with multiple partners or partner whose status is unknown. And if they engage in sex without condoms.

Those also at the risk of HIV and encouraged to go on the PrEP medication are people who inject drugs (PWID) and share needles or equipment.

 

 

Why Take PrEP?

If you belong to any of the groups mentioned above, you should take PrEP because you're at the risk of getting infected with HIV.

PrEP has proven to be very effective at lowering the risk of getting a HIV infection if taken daily and consistently.

 

Are There Side Effects?

You might experience some side effects at the start of taking the medication, however it'd only be for a while, and neither are the side effects life-threatening. The side effects you'd experience are little things like nausea. You're advised to speak to a healthcare provider if there are side effects that bother you and have remained over time.

 

What to Note:

  • PrEP only protects you from getting the HIV infection. You'd still need to use condoms to protect yourself from getting infected with other STIs such as gonorrhoea or chlamydia.
  • It's also important to remember that you need to take the PrEP tablets daily for it to be effective. It's its presence in the bloodstream that stops the spread of HIV in the body. To get maximum protection from HIV, if one is the receptive partner during anal sex, one must have consistently used PrEP for about 7 days.  For receptive vaginal sex and injection drug use, one must have used PrEP daily for about 21 days. There are no data available yet on how long it takes to get maximum protection for insertive anal or insertive vaginal sex.
  • If your risk of getting HIV infection becomes low due to lifestyle changes, you can discontinue the use of PrEP. If you also find that daily drug intake isn't viable for you, you can always explore other HIV prevention methods.

 

Can you start PrEP after you have been exposed to HIV?

PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) is suitable only for those who are at risk of getting HIV. But PEP (post-exposure prophylaxis) is an option for someone who feels they may have recently been exposed to HIV during sex or through injection drug use.

PEP means taking antiretroviral medicines after a possible exposure to HIV to prevent getting the virus. PEP must be started within 72 hours of possible exposure to HIV. If you’re prescribed PEP, you’d have to take it once or twice daily for 28 days for it to be effective at blocking the HIV infection.

 

Do you have more questions about PreP? Reach out to our Moderators on our Facebook Page and they will answer your questions.

Marie Stopes Nigeria

 

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