Health should mount campaigns on PrEP

12 Aug 2017 08:50am
By Linea Dishena
WINDHOEK, 12 AUG (NAMPA) – Several members of the public have asked for the Ministry of Health and Social Services (MoHSS) to conduct educative campaigns on the just rolled out Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) medication.
PrEP is one of the preventative measures for people who perceive themselves to be at a substantial risk of contracting the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) that causes AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome).
Those at high risk include, HIV negative people in a relationship with a partner who is HIV positive, partners of unknown HIV status, multiple sexual partners, adolescents and those who opt to have sex while under the influence of alcohol.
The Namibia Medicines Regulatory Council approved PrEP in May this year and the health ministry held a seminar in July to sensitise the media on the matter.
Sister Namibia Director, Vida de Voss told Nampa that PrEP could be a positive initiative if used responsibly. She explained that in cases of married women who know that their husbands are unfaithful but cannot leave them because of financial or emotional reasons, they can now protect themselves.
“As for someone who is loose to think now PrEP is the ticket, that is a moral misunderstanding of what the drug initially intended to do,” said de Voss in an interview.
Executive Director of the Namibia Network of AIDS Services Organisations (NANASO), Sandi Tjaronda said the drug is one that should not be taken alone but with other prevention measures.
“People should know that PrEP does not come alone, but it is a double measure added onto the existing HIV prevention measure,” said Tjaronda.
Gibson Amugongo, a medical student at Kharkov Medical University in Ukraine remarked that although it is true that PrEp will help those who are exposed to HIV, AIDS is not the only sexually transmitted disease that kills people.
He said there are other sexual transmitted diseases that kill people if not detected earlier.
An employee at the University of Namibia (UNAM), who preferred to remain anonymous, said if it is really a prevention drug that complements the already existing ones, then it is a good initiative.
“[But] let us not promote reckless behaviour as we roll-out this drug.”
MoHSS during the seminar held in July stressed that PrEP is not a cure but a preventative measure against contracting HIV.
Control Health Programme Officer in the ministry, Sarah Tobias strongly advised the public to understand that PrEP is not a cure for HIV.
It was explained that PrEP users should take the drug every day, as it is only effective after 20 days. However, it is not life-long medication, and individuals can stop taking the medication once they are no longer at risk.
The medication costs about N. dollars 500 at private hospitals, while it is free at some public hospitals across the country where the ministry is currently running a pilot project.
Side effects that arise in the first weeks of PrEP are nausea, abdominal cramps, vomiting, dizziness, headaches, and fatigue, which usually resolve without withdrawing.