ZIMBABWE has to date managed to initiate over 8 000 people on Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) since commencement of the project in 2016, a government official said on Thursday.
By Kudakwashe Pembere
Currently administered in the form of tablets, PrEP has been studied to be effective in the protection of HIV negative people against the disease.
Since adoption of PrEP as a preventive measure against STIs in Zimbabwe in 2016, about 8 482 people have been initiated.
Ministry of Health and Childcare National HIV Prevention Coordinator Ms Getrude Ncube told journalists at a Humanitarian Information Facilitation Centre (HIFC) and AVAC Media Science Café that uptake of PrEP tilted more to females aged between 25 and 49.
“Men and women are coming and as for age disaggregation we are getting the ages of 25 to 49 coming but the majority of people coming for preexposure prophylaxis according to PSI data its actually the female sex workers. So the main people who are coming are female sex workers. Then there are the transactional sex and then the young women selling sex YWSS,” she said.
She said they had set targets of initiating people on PrEP with last year’s being 10 576.
“So these are the targets. We are saying for 2018 we needed to reach about 10 576. Again for 2019, this is sort of like still cumulating because even the World Health Organisation who initiated themselves on Prep in 2018 will still come again in 2019.
“So in 2019, we set our target putting all the mathematical modelling around, we said our target will be 10 451 and in 2020 our target will be 10 536. So as you can see the targets were divided into Female Sex Workers, Serodiscordant Couples, Men who have sex with Men MSM, adolescent girls and the young women.
“We are working on the transgender. We are collecting data. We will look at them and review the data and then include that.
“Again we have come up with our technical team to say let’s look at the data that is available because it was very difficult to come up with those targets by then because we did not have enough data. Where data is available, we are going to be looking before the end of the year,” Ms Ncube said.
She added they reached 60 percent of their 2018 targets getting 6314 on board.
“For 2018, we achieved 60 percent against our target of 10 576. But there are some reasons why we did not achieve. Like at the areas like Centre for Sexual Health and HIV/AIDS Research Zimbabwe (CeSHHAR) where there is wider coverage when we are looking at their 36 sites they still do not have the medicines. Its only this year when they will be getting the medicines,” said Ms Ncube.
Ms Ncube also said they are working in scaling up, “PrEP now besides the DREAMS district which is Mazowe, Mutare, Chipinge, Makoni, Gweru, or Bulawayo, they have actually gone to Harare as well, Masvingo as well, Masvingo because of the Highway we are offering PreExposure Prophylaxis as well mainly through CeSHHAR through PSI. CeSHHAR right now does not have the medicines. What CeSHHAR does is they see the female sex worker and refer them to PSI. very soon because CEeSHHAR is benefiting through the Global Fund, very soon in the clinics for CeSHHAR, we will actually be providing preexposure prophylaxis. We will be training people from CeSHHAR in two weeks’ time because the drugs, the medicines we are told are in country or they will be in country very soon. Like I said, for all clients we have to screen you, involve a risk assessment tool. We actually get an indepth history of the client before PrEP commencement. Some have said this is a barrier but we have said again as a country we don’t want to be distributing drugs willy nilly for people who are at risk for one day and all that.”
She stressed the importance of PrEP being delivered as part of Combination HIV Prevention approaches such as consistent, correct condom use, abstinence to mention but these few.
Medical scientist Dr Nyaradzo Mgodi said they are currently doing studies in the country and six more African countries on the acceptability of other PrEP methods such as the vaginal ring and Cabotegravir injectables. She said this was after realising that most of the users of the Truvada pill complained of its size and rattling of the pills in the bottles.