In order to make the prevention of HIV a priority in women’s lives, HIV prevention education needs to take into account women’s life circumstances.

Currently, the main methods of protection against HIV transmission are:

  • the use of condoms and other physical barriers
  • using new needles when injecting drugs
  • the treatment of HIV-positive people to reduce viral load
  • pre-exposure prophylaxis and post exposure prophylaxis (PrEP and PEP)

Power imbalances in women’s lives, whether economic, physical, or social, impact their ability to prevent HIV transmission. Women need accessible and affordable self-controlled methods of prevention that do not require the knowledge or consent of their sexual and/or injection partners. As research advances and new prevention technologies are made more accessible, prevention for women is showing future promise.

PEP, or post-exposure prophylaxis, is a way for a person who may have recently been exposed to HIV to prevent HIV infection. It involves taking HIV medications right after a potential high-risk exposure to HIV. PEP must be accessed as soon as possible and no more than 72 hours after exposure to be effective (use as pull quote) and consists of a 28 day course of HIV medication. It is not 100% effective.

Is PEP accessible?

PEP can be accessed through emergency rooms and the cost will be covered by OHIP for exposure through sexual assault or exposure in the workplace (for example a health care worker who accidentally experiences a needle-stick injury). For other high-risk exposures, the cost of PEP is charged to the person accessing it and will cost around $1,000 for the 28 day treatment. If you have private insurance, PEP will be covered. If you do not have private insurance and cannot afford the medications, you can work with emergency room staff and ask if it can be provided to you free of charge.

It is important to note that across Ontario, access to PEP in emergency rooms is inconsistent. PEP may not be readily available and the decision to prescribe PEP will be left to the discretion of the healthcare provider.

For more information on PEP:  

When a person living with HIV is maintaining an undetectable viral load, the risk of transmitting HIV to their partner(s) falls dramatically, by as much as 96%. 

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