PrEP is an anti-HIV medication which protects HIV-negative people from becoming infected with the virus.
According to Dr Kevin Rebe from the Anova Health Institute in Johannesburg, South Africa, who gave a lecture on medication in Windhoek yesterday, PrEP is dispensed as a single pill taken once daily. It is highly effective against HIV when it is taken every day, he said.
“The World Health Organisation acknowledged that PrEP is 92% to 100% effective at preventing HIV infection. PrEp is always prescribed, alongside additional HIV prevention tools, including condoms, lubricants, STI testing and treatment as well as regular HIV counselling and testing. PrEP has been proven to be safe after having been subjected to clinical trials over the past 10 years,” Rebe said. Priscilla (29), a mother of two, said she started using PrEP because she has an allergy to certain types of condoms, and because of her fear of becoming infected with HIV-AIDS.
However, Rebe said PrEP is not a lifelong medication and does not need to be taken for the rest of one’s life, but can only be taken during specific periods of high risk.
Ben Brown, also from the Anova Health Institute, said the medication interferes with HIV’s ability to copy itself in your body after you have been exposed.
This prevents it from establishing an infection and making you sick.
“Taking PrEP does not lead to HIV infection or increased risk factors. Anyone can take it if they are already at risk of getting HIV, and PrEP helps them stay negative. Some PrEP users may be at risk of getting HIV because of their behaviour, others may be at risk because of their partner’s behaviour, or even because they are easily exposed to HIV because their community has a very high prevalence rate,” Brown explained.
Sydney (20), a transgender person, has been using PrEP for a month, and says this is mostly because of his lifestyle.
“I am planning to stay HIV negative, and I think it is possible with PrEP. Although it takes effort, I am happy and feel safe that I am on PrEP. Although I had issues during the first three days, I am committed to taking it every day, and every day there is a high chance I would not be infected with HIV,” Sydney said. Taimi Amaambo from the Society for Family Health in Namibia said the 2016 Namibia guidelines for antiretroviral therapy (ART) has expanded the provision of PrEP to individuals at substantial risk of HIV infection.
“In May 2017, the ARV medication (TDF/FTC) was approved for PrEP use by the Namibia Medicines Regulatory Council. All these efforts are being deliberately taken to move towards reducing new HIV infections, reducing AIDS-related deaths and thereby increasing life expectancy, and to having an AIDS-free generation,” she said.
Amaambo added that PrEP is available at selected health facilities, and that the Ministry of Health and Social Services will give guidelines on how the drug can be accessed.
The PrEP programme was implemented at Walvis Bay about a month ago, and introduced in Windhoek about a week ago. The next beneficiary town will be Oshikango in the Ohangwena region.
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