By THEMBEKA DLAMINI | 2018-08-12
Government will soon roll out the Pre-Exposure-Prophylaxis (PrEP) pill to HIV negative Emaswati following the success of a recent study.
This follows the resounding success of the trial of PrEP among thousands of Emaswati who were engaged in the programme since August last year.
Ministry of Health Principal Secretary Dr Simon Zwane confirmed the success of the study yesterday, saying it was ongoing.
“It is true we have this study and it is ongoing and so far so good in terms of its progress. I can not dwell much on its results since we have not yet reached that phase.
At a high level what I can say is that it is going well. You will recall that before we rolled out the test and start initiative we began with a similar study and it informed the policy and now place. We are heading there. Once the study has been concluded if it is established that PrEP has more benefits we will definitely roll it out nationwide,” he revealed.
The PS stated that at the moment they were awaiting the outcome of the study to ascertain which regimen would be most viable and cost effective and that would be used to inform policy decision.
National Emergency Council on HIV/AIDS (NERCHA) CEO, Khanya Mabuza stated that PrEP features prominently in their new HIV Strategy dubbed Last Mile.
“We are looking forward to PrEP being part of the preventive package. With WHO approving it and demonstration projects that we have done indicate positive results, obviously it will be part of the preventive measures. It is the way to go especially on people at high risk of HIV,”he said. Studies indicate that PrEP is an efficient method of HIV prevention of the virus acquisition by 90 per cent. PrEP is when an HIV negative person takes one pill every day to help prevent becoming infected with HIV and this pill is taken before and throughout a period of being exposed to HIV infection.
Apart from the oral pill that is taken on a daily basis, which began in August last year, the ministry has it on pipeline to introduce an injectable medicine which will last for two months in one’s body. This clinical trial is expected to start next month.
This was revealed by FHI 360 Nurse Confidence Mpofu and International Centre for Aids Treatment Programme (ICAP) Chemical Research Officer Samkelo Simelane during the Business Sector Coordination Forum held at Sibane Hotel. The duo was presenting on the PrEP oral and injectable respectively.
Simelane stated that there were ethical considerations that were being finalised whilst the ministry was also given approval by international bodies to conduct the clinical trials of the injectable PrEP medication.
He stated that the injectable PrEP would be available at the Family Life Association of Swaziland (FLAS) offices in Mbabane, where it will be administered to those who will be part of the sample group.
He stated that for a start the trial would be only be open to HIV negative women between the ages 15 to 45 who are eligible to participate.
Mpofu on the other hand stated that unlike the ART where people are expected to continue taking the pills for the rest of their lives those on PrEp can start and stop at any given time.
She clarified that PrEP is not a treatment for HIV but a pill to help prevent people at high risk from getting HIV infection. These are mainly the key populations which include sex workers, transgender and homosexuals.
Mpofu also clarified that PrEP does not protect against STIs or prevent pregnancy.
“PrEP is for any HIV-negative person who is at a high risk of getting infected with HIV at any given point in time. It is not for HIV positive people. PrEP will only help prevent you from getting infected with HIV and you do not have to take PrEP for the rest of your life.
It can be stopped when the risk is not there anymore. It is recommended that you consult with a health care provider before you stop PrEP,” she explained.
How it works:
Explaining how Pre-Exposure-Prophylaxis Confidence Mpofu said it blocks the HIV from multiplying in one’s body and for it to work efficiently one needs to take the pill every day consistently.
“When you do not take PrEP everyday as prescribed, you will not be protected. PrEP is rendered safe for you to use. It is effective if you take it every day.
You need to see/consult your healthcare provider regularly per your scheduled visits to have an HIV test to make sure you are still HIV-negative,” she said.
She added that these visits may be scheduled for any other blood tests that are required periodically to ensure optimum health. It will take a week of PrEP for one to be to be protected as it only reaches its effectiveness after seven days while one can stop PrEP 28 days after their last exposure if they are no longer at substantial risk.
“You can start and stop Prep anytime and as many times in a year depending on your lifestyle and needs. The following are other ways to lower risk; adopting safer sexual practices.
Consistent condom use. For sero-discordant couples, positive partner has to be under ART therapy effectively for six months and be virally suppressed,” she said.
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