Some experts said there's a greater risk of getting hepatitis C from a needle stick than there is of contracting HIV.
"Exposure doesn't mean automatic infection under any circumstance," said Jane Shull of Philadelphia FIGHT, an AIDS service organization that provides primary care, consumer education, advocacy, and research on potential treatments and vaccines.
But Shull said it's vital to give antiviral drugs immediately.
"You do want to do this quickly, before the virus gets a foothold in your body," she said.
The arsenal of medications available to doctors has changed dramatically within the past decade. A whole new class of drugs, the fusion inhibitors, came out two years ago, and many of the drugs that were used previously are being combined to make them easier to take. They need to be taken fewer times a day, and generally have milder side effects.
Shull believes if the drug regimen is followed, this horrible incident eventually will be little more than a distant memory.
"If you're willing to put up with these side effects, then you go from a situation where you really had a risk to something where you're really OK," she said.
ABC News affiliate WPVI in Philadelphia contributed to this report.