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By Citizen Reporter

Journalist


PrEP: HIV is now highly manageable and treatable with chronic medication

PrEP will not prevent other sexually transmitted infections or pregnancy .


In the 34 years since World Aids Day was first commemorated on 1 December, 1988, so much medical progress has been made that HIV is now highly manageable with chronic medication and today it is even preventable with pre-exposure prophylaxis, otherwise known as PrEP.

Daily pill

Pharmacist Joy Steenkamp of Medipost Pharmacy, says: “In South Africa, PrEP pills are available on prescription to help people who are HIV-negative and at substantial risk for HIV infection to prevent the person contracting the virus.

“The medication, usually taken in the form of a daily pill, is highly effective when taken consistently as prescribed. An injectable form of PrEP is also available in some countries and will hopefully soon be introduced in South Africa,” she says.

Does not prevent STIs or pregnancy

“PrEP will not prevent other sexually transmitted infections or pregnancy and should always be used along with other safe sex practices including condoms, contraceptives and HIV testing.”

Steenkamp says the country is seeing more enlightened attitudes towards HIV but while there has been progress in reducing the stigma around the condition, “we need greater awareness of the prevention measures available, too”.

ALSO READ: What you need to know about HIV

Take for seven consecutive days

To be most effective, PrEP oral medication should be taken at the same time each day and used for at least seven days before potential exposure and for at least 28 days after the last contact.

“The daily PrEP pill is helpful for serodiscordant couples, that is, where one partner is HIV-positive and the other is HIV-negative, to prevent the negative partner from becoming infected. There are however many reasons people may ask their healthcare provider to prescribe PrEP as part of a responsible approach to safeguarding their health.”

Adolescent and teenagers

She notes that, in South Africa, new infections are highest among adolescent and teenage women, therefore parents and guardians should consider the protective benefits PrEP may offer during this high-risk time.

“There are many factors that are considered when determining who may benefit from PrEP and it’s important to understand that there are wider societal factors outside the individual’s control and personal choices that may contribute to a higher risk profile,” Steenkamp points out.

Side-effects eventually resolve

“PrEP pills are well tolerated by most people and any mild side-effects some people may experience will usually resolve within a few weeks.

“Although it is up to pregnant women to determine their risk and decide for themselves, PrEP is safe to take during pregnancy and while breastfeeding if needed.”

Medipost Pharmacy currently dispenses chronic medication for almost 800 000 patients in total countrywide.

It is important that when HIV medication is couriered to patients that patient privacy is maintained, so the outer packaging does not show what the medicine parcels contain and confidentiality is guaranteed.

NOW READ: HIV prevention pills available for free at SA health facilities

– news@citizen.co.za

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