Provide PrEP to all vulnerable groups if you want to eradicate HIV, advocacy group tells Nigerian government
Says strict adherence reduces the risk of HIV from sex by 90%
In order achieve “zero level” HIV/AIDS infections or keep it to the barest minimal in Nigeria, the Federal Government has been urged to provide Pre- exposure prophylaxis popularly known as PrEP, to all vulnerable groups and not only discordant couples in Nigeria.
It has been observed that the drug, Truvada, has been approved by government but it is not readily available to all vulnerable groups. These vulnerable groups has been itemized as men who have sex with men, MSM, discordant partners, people with high number of sex partners, commercial sex workers, transgender individuals, adolescents among others.
This was one of the concerns raised last week at the ongoing five-week training of journalists organised by an advocacy group, the New HIV and Microbicide Advocacy Society (NHVMAS), which kick-started in April at their head office in Lagos.
PrEP according to experts is one of the HIV prevention strategies which involve use of antiretroviral medications, ARVs, to reduce the risk of infection in people who are HIV negative.
Speaking during the second edition of the training, NHVMAS Program Director, Mrs. Florita Durueke, said it is advisable for all the people at very high risk for HIV to take the medicines daily to lower their chances of getting infected.
She noted that in late 2015, the World Health Organization, WHO, recommended PrEP as an additional prevention option for HIV negative people at substantial risk of HIV.
She said that daily intake of PrEP reduces the risk of getting HIV from sex by more than 90 percent while it reduces the risk among people who inject drugs by more than 70 percent.
Durueke said: “PrEP is highly effective for preventing HIV if used as prescribed, but it is much less effective when not taken consistently.”
However, she said before a HIV negative person should consider taking PrEP, there has to be thorough education on do’s and don’ts involved with it. She said there must be support system and proper assessment and she advised that PrEP is not an alternative to condoms rather; they can go hand in hand.
Durueke said: “Daily oral PrEP is safe. There were no significant side effects observed in PrEP trials to date.”
However, she noted, resistance to PrEP drugs can arise if the person starts PrEP with undiagnosed HIV or if he or she acquires HIV and keeps on taking PrEP afterwards.
“As long as someone has a confirmed HIV negative diagnosis and is taking PrEP
consistently and correctly, along with periodic HIV testing, there’s little risk of getting HIV and of acquiring drug resistance,” Durueke said.