Did you know there are pills available in South Africa that can prevent a person from contracting HIV? HIV prevention pills, known as pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), are now available for free at over 2 000 hospitals and clinics across the country and can reduce a person’s chances of contracting HIV by up to 96% — if taken daily.
The PrEP drug comes in the form of a tablet that consists of two antiretroviral drugs — tenofovir and emtricitabine. According to the Desmond Tutu HIV Foundation, PrEP blocks the replication of the HIV virus in human cells, thereby stopping infection.
“It can prevent HIV infection even if the virus enters the body through an exchange of sexual fluids or from an injection.
“To be effective, the drug must be taken every day in the same way that oral contraceptives are. PrEP should ideally be used alongside other protective methods, such as female and male condoms, as PrEP is not protective against other sexually transmitted infections nor is it a contraceptive. People who take PrEP need to get an HIV test regularly [currently around three months is recommended],” the foundation said in a statement.
While PrEp is recommended for those who are at high risk for contracting HIV — such as those who are HIV negative with an HIV positive partner, sex workers, those with multiple sexual partners, and now-adolescent girls and young women due to a drastic increase in gender-based violence — anyone who feels it is a good choice for them can take the pills.
According to the AIDS info datasheet, more than 7,5 million South Africans are living with HIV and with 200 000 new infections annually. South Africa faces the largest HIV epidemic in the world.
Equally concerning is that about 660 000 of all people living with HIV are young people between the ages of 15 and 24, and 310 000 are children younger than 14 years old.
PrEP is absorbed differently in vaginal and rectal tissues, so there are different guidelines on how to take PrEP, depending on whether you have vaginal or rectal sex, according to the foundation.
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