ZIMBABWE has launched Pre Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) strategy for 2018 up to 2020 which is aimed at scaling up uptake of the PrEP drug amongst key populations and those at high risk of contracting HIV.
By Michael Gwarisa
Launching the strategy document, Health and Child Care minister, Dr David Parirenyatwa said Zimbabwe still faced a huge HIV challenge as it is still recording incidence around 32 000 people every year hence the need to increase prevention mechanisms.
“Now I am proud to emphasise that we have successfully managed to reduce the number of new HIV infections in Zimbabwe from 64 000 new infections per year ago to the current 32 000 new infections per year.
“87 percent of people living with HIV are now on treatment, which is a good achievement towards ending AIDS by 2030. We have this new ray of hope that as we revitalise our HIV prevention efforts, we will soon reach our long awaited dream of ending AIDS by 2030,” said Dr Parirenyatwa.
PrEP is an Anti-Retroviral (ARV) drug which is taken by HIV negative individuals who believe they are at high risk of getting infected with the HIV virus and is taken seven days before the actual sexual encounter. For married couples and discordant couples, the drug is taken daily.
He also said the PrEP program would also target high risk groups such as Sex workers, Men who have sex with other men (MSM), truck drivers, married couples, tertiary institution students, young people among others.
“The new strategy for PrEP that we are launching today, has been informed by several demonstration projects and community and community voices across various in 2017 that were providing PrEP to those at very high risk of infection.
“We have considerably learnt lessons from this and we have this for the plans in scaling up the program. In 2017, more than 3, 500 people took up PrEP as an additional of HIV prevention. This comprehensive strategy on PrEP is going to provide for us strategic direction for how to how to provide PrEP for those at high risk across all districts in Zimbabwe,” added Dr Parirenyatwa.
The event marked the celebrations for Zimbabwe reaching the one million men target for voluntary medical male circumcision (VMMC) and the Prep strategy according to minister Parirenyatwa was an add on to the already existing HIV prevention initiatives in the country.
The VMMC program has been running in the country since 2009 starting with only five sites before growing and registering its presence in all the 65 districts either through static, mobile or outreach services.
Speaking at the same occasion, Deputy Director, HIV/TB Unit in the Ministry of Health and Child Care (MoHCC), Dr Tsitsi Apollo said the PrREP strategy would go a long way in complementing already existing measures such as VMMC and others.
“With a target of circumcising 1, 3 million men by 2017, we confidently started the journey. We only had five site across the country, but in 2013, with the increased funding and coming of new partners, we began to scale up more site. We also reviewed our MC policy after compelling evidence that nurses could also completely perform male circumcision complementing doctors as we scaled up male circumcision to be available in our facilities.
“In 2014, we officially launched our accelerated strategic plan for the VMMC program, which charted the way on how we would make the program, which charted the way on how we would make the program work for us to meet our goal,” said Dr Apollo.
In 2016, the MoHCC adopted the new ART Guidelines and PrEP was a key part of the guidelines. PrEP is coming into be a part of the HIV combination prevention where there is still ,major emphasis on condoms, STI diagnosis and treatment, VMMC, HIV testing services, behaviour change, including abstinence for those people who are not yet sexually active.
In Zimbabwe. PrEP is currently being offered through New Start Centres sites in six DREAMS districts, two non-dreams districts, ZNFPC sites and in selected public health facilities. Research shows that PrEP works effectively if taken correctly.