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Knowledge and Attitudes of Nurses Working in Sexual Health Clinics in the United Kingdom Toward Post-Sexual Exposure Prophylaxis for HIV Infection


  • Mark Hayter is Lecturer in Nursing, School of Nursing and Midwifery, University of Sheffield, Sheffield, United Kingdom.

* Mark Hayter, School of Nursing and Midwifery, University of Sheffield, Winter Street, Sheffield S3 7ND, UK. E-mail:


Abstract  The use of anti-human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) drugs after occupational exposure to HIV is a proven method of preventing some HIV infections. There is anecdotal evidence that this treatment is being used to treat recently exposed sexual contacts of HIV infection, known as non-occupational post-exposure prophylaxis (NONOPEP). This raises the issues of the impact of such treatment on sexual behavior and public health. Six hundred questionnaires were distributed to nurses working in sexual health clinics. Four hundred and six (67%) were returned. Questionnaires contained items related to awareness of HIV NONOPEP and items included attitudes related to its use. Seventy two percent of respondents were aware of HIV NONOPEP, and 17% had experience of its use in their clinic. Twenty one percent of respondents indicated that their clinic had a specific HIV NONOPEP policy. In relation to attitudes, practitioners were more positive of NONOPEP in relation to an HIV exposure within a long-term relationship than exposure within a casual relationship, indicating that the mode of HIV exposure was a factor in the justification of NONOPEP. Practitioners seemed to support the notion that HIV NONOPEP use in a casual exposure may increase the likelihood of unsafe sexual practice; however, practitioners with experience were less likely to express this view. It is suggested that an informed debate and NONOPEP policy development within all sexual health clinics will militate against judgmental views affecting access and care.