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Learning About HIV Post-Exposure Prevention in Children

What is HIV post-exposure prevention?

HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) is a virus that attacks the immune system. This is the body's natural defense system. Without a strong immune system, the body has trouble fighting off disease.

If your child has come into contact with HIV, treatment can help prevent the virus from taking hold and spreading in your child's body. This treatment is called post-exposure prevention (PEP). It is only for people who have been exposed to the virus but are not infected yet.

Children can be exposed to HIV in several ways. Some of the most common ways are:

  • Getting stuck with a needle that has the virus on it. Children sometimes find needles on playgrounds, beaches, and other public areas. Or they may get stuck with a needle when they reach into used sharps containers. These are containers where people put used medical needles.
  • Being sexually abused by a person who has HIV.
  • Nursing from the breast of a woman who has HIV.

How is PEP given?

PEP must be started within 3 days (72 hours) of the time your child came into contact with HIV.

One of the first things your doctor will do is make sure your child is not already infected with the virus. This is most often done with an HIV blood test.

If PEP is right for your child, the doctor will prescribe medicine. Which medicine your doctor chooses depends on several things. These include your child's age and any other health conditions your child has.

Make sure to follow your doctor's instructions. Medicines are usually given every day for 28 days. The treatment won't work well if you don't follow the daily schedule.

Some medicines may be given more than 1 time a day. Tell your doctor if you have problems with the schedule.

PEP medicines come in many forms. These can include tablets, capsules, liquids, and chewables. Tell your doctor if your child has trouble taking any form of medicine. Your doctor may be able to choose another one or show you how to make it easier to swallow.

Your child will need regular visits with the doctor. The doctor will check to see how well the treatment is helping your child. The doctor may adjust the medicine if needed.

What else should you know?

  • Teach your child not to touch or play with needles.
  • Show your child what a sharps container looks like. Teach him or her not to reach into one.
  • Be safe with medicines. Have your child take medicines exactly as prescribed. Call your doctor or nurse call line if you think your child is having a problem with his or her medicine. You will get more details on the specific medicines your doctor prescribes.
  • Do not share the medicine with other people.
  • Call your doctor or nurse call line if your child has nausea, fatigue, diarrhea, or dizziness.

Follow-up care is a key part of your child's treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if your child is having problems. It's also a good idea to know your child's test results and keep a list of the medicines your child takes.

Where can you learn more?

Go to https://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.