Non-occupational postexposure prophylaxis for HIV: a systematic review

Health Technol Assess. 2009 Feb;13(14):iii, ix-x, 1-60. doi: 10.3310/hta13140.


Objectives: To review the evidence on the clinical effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of non-occupational postexposure prophylaxis (PEP) for HIV.

Data sources: Eleven electronic databases were searched from inception to December 2007.

Review methods: Selected studies were assessed, subjected to data extraction using a standard template and quality assessment using published criteria. Studies were synthesised using a narrative approach with full tabulation of results from all included studies.

Results: One clinical effectiveness study meeting the inclusion criteria was identified, a cohort study of PEP in a high-risk HIV-negative homosexual male cohort in Brazil. The quality of the study was generally weak. Seroincidence in the cohort as a whole (2.9 per 100 person-years) was very similar to that expected in this population (3.1 per 100 person-years, p > 0.97), despite the seroconversion to HIV being 1/68 in the PEP group and 10/132 in the group not receiving PEP. High-risk sexual activities declined over time for both PEP and non-PEP users. Four economic evaluations met the inclusion criteria of the review. The methodological quality of the studies was mixed. The studies are constrained by a lack of published data on the clinical effectiveness of PEP after non-occupational exposure, with effectiveness data derived from one study of occupational PEP. Their generalisability to the UK is not clear. Results suggest that PEP following non-occupational exposure to HIV was cost saving for men who have unprotected receptive anal intercourse with men, whether the source partner is known to be HIV positive or not; heterosexuals after unprotected receptive anal intercourse; and intravenous drug users sharing needles with a known HIV-positive person. PEP following non-occupational exposure to HIV was cost-effective for all male-male intercourse (unprotected receptive and insertive anal intercourse, unprotected receptive oral sex, and 'other') and was possibly cost-effective for intravenous drug users and high-risk women. Four additional studies were identified giving further information about adverse events associated with PEP after non-occupational exposure to HIV. The majority of participants experienced adverse events with the most common being nausea and fatigue. Rates were generally higher in participants receiving triple therapy than in participants receiving dual therapy. Completion of PEP therapy was variable, ranging from 24% to 78% of participants depending on type of therapy. Toxicity was the main reason for discontinuation of treatment.

Conclusions: It is not possible to draw conclusions on the clinical effectiveness of non-occupational PEP for HIV because of the limited evidence available. The review of cost-effectiveness suggests that non-occupational PEP may be cost-effective, especially in certain population subgroups; however, the assumptions made and data sources used in the cost-effectiveness studies mean that their results should be used with caution.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Anti-HIV Agents / administration & dosage
  • Anti-HIV Agents / adverse effects
  • Anti-HIV Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Cost-Benefit Analysis
  • Databases, Bibliographic
  • Drug Combinations
  • Drug Therapy, Combination
  • HIV Infections / drug therapy*
  • HIV Infections / economics
  • HIV Infections / prevention & control*
  • HIV Infections / transmission
  • HIV Seropositivity / drug therapy
  • HIV Seropositivity / economics
  • Humans
  • Lamivudine / economics
  • Lamivudine / pharmacology
  • Lamivudine / therapeutic use
  • Lopinavir
  • Premedication
  • Pyrimidinones / economics
  • Pyrimidinones / pharmacology
  • Pyrimidinones / therapeutic use
  • Ritonavir / economics
  • Ritonavir / pharmacology
  • Ritonavir / therapeutic use
  • Substance Abuse, Intravenous
  • Time Factors
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Unsafe Sex
  • Zidovudine / economics
  • Zidovudine / pharmacology
  • Zidovudine / therapeutic use


  • Anti-HIV Agents
  • Drug Combinations
  • Pyrimidinones
  • lamivudine, zidovudine drug combination
  • Lopinavir
  • Lamivudine
  • Zidovudine
  • Ritonavir