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Post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) is the standard of care for a healthcare worker (HCW) accidentally exposed to an HIV infected source person (occupational exposure), but this is not the case for non-occupational exposures. Very few national guidelines exist for the management of non-occupational exposures to HIV in Europe, contrarily to the occupational ones. The administration of non-occupational post-exposure prophylaxis (NONOPEP) for HIV may be justified by: a biological plausibility, the effectiveness of PEP in animal studies and occupational exposures in humans, efficacy in the prevention of mother to child HIV transmission, and cost effectiveness studies. These evidences, the similar risk of HIV transmission for certain non-occupational exposures to occupational ones, and the conflicting information about attitudes and practices among physicians on NONOPEP led to the proposal of these European recommendations. Participant members of the European project on HIV NONOPEP, funded by the European Commission, and acknowledged as experts in bloodborne pathogen transmission and prevention, met from December 2000 to December 2002 at three formal meetings and a two day workshop for a literature review on risk exposure assessment and the development of the European recommendations for the management of HIV NONOPEP. NONOPEP is recommended in unprotected receptive anal sex and needle or syringe exchange when the source person is known as HIV positive or from a population group with high HIV prevalence. Any combination of drugs available for HIV infected patients can be used as PEP and the simplest and least toxic regimens are to be preferred. PEP should be given within 72 hours from the time of exposure, starting as early as possible and lasting four weeks. All patients should receive medical evaluation including HIV antibody tests, drug toxicity monitoring and counseling periodically for at least 6 months after the exposure. NONOPEP seems to be a both feasible and frequent clinical practice in Europe. Recommendations for its management have been achieved by consensus, but some remain controversial, and they should be updated periodically. NONOPEP should never be considered as a primary prevention strategy and the final decision for prescription must be made on the basis of the patient-physician relationship. Finally, a surveillance system for these cases will be useful to monitor NONOPEP practices in Europe.


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