Various stakeholders from within the HIV continuum gathered in Mazowe, Mashonaland Central province for a four day Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) communication strategy development workshop.
By Michael Gwarisa in Mazowe
The workshop was hosted by the National AIDS Council (NAC), in collaboration with Jhpiego, with funding from Global Fund with the objective to design a communication instrument for the planning and coordination of demand creation interventions implemented by key stakeholders and implementing partners in at community level to motivate the uptake and sustained use of PrEP by priority audiences.
The communication strategy is set to provide guidance on developing innovative and effective communication strategies to promote lower risk behaviour and support diverse populations to make decisions that reduce the risk of HIV transmission through the use of PrEP.
In an interview with HealthTimes, National AIDS Council (NAC) Acting Chief Executive Officer, Mr Raymond Yekeye said current HIV landscape needs new communication strategies.
We are here in partnership with our colleagues who are offering HIV prevention in eh country in different provinces as well as targeting different populations to look at how we can better communicate about HIV prevention so that our messages reach the intended audiences, they appropriate for the intended audiences and they address the priority issues within the HIV response,” said Mr Yekeye.
The workshop attracted participants from government, development partners, Media, Communications personnel, Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), Non-Governmental Organisations, Adolescent Girls and Young Women (AGYW) Key populations, the disabled amongst others.
“For this program, the overall objective is to see how best we can develop the communication messages for HIV prevention. What has happened here is the team has used PrEP as an example because it’s a fairly new program that we taking up as a country. Therefore there is still a lot of work and communication issues that are required for us to be able to fully rollout PrEP.
“The issue is about understanding PrEP, who should access PrEP, the fears, the issues of age appropriate programing. Those are some of the challenges we have faced to say do we roll out PrEP to all our populations or we roll it out to specific groups.”
PrEP is the use of Antiretroviral (ARV) drugs by HIV-uninfected persons to prevent the acquisition of HIV before exposure to HIV. According to the Ministry of Health and Child Care (MoHCC) data, in 2021, a total 40, 395 people took up PrEP and the country surpassed the target the country had set for PrEP uptake from that period.
Agnes Ngure, Demand Generation Implementation lead at Jhpiego said, “..this workshop was planned in collaboration with NAC in Zimbabwe and the objective is to bring implementing partners together with the national council for us to develop a communication plan for PrEP in Zimbabwe so that we are all aligned on the implementation of PrEP programing here in Zimbabwe.”
The workshop according to Ngure was also able to demonstrate what demand generation looks like and also transfer knowledge, tools and resources which partners can use during the implementation of PrEP.
“One of the most important things about this session is that we brought together different partners and they were all able to showcase their achievements, their opportunities and they gaps they have in PrEP implementation. Through that, we have been able to share experiences and learn from each other and to most importantly agree on the way forward regarding how we want to implement PrEP communication and demand generation in Zimbabwe,” said Ngure.
Meanwhile, Zimbabwe National HIV Guidelines included a single daily oral PrEP pill containing 300mg tenofovir disoproxil fumarate (TDF) as part of HIV Prevention intervention. It can be used as a fixed-dose combination with 200mg Emtricitabine (FTC) or 300mg Lamivudine (3TC).
Most oral PrEP pills contain a combination of two ARVs- tenofovir disoproxil fumarate (TDF) and emtricatabine. Zimbabwe commenced rollout of oral PrEP program in 2016 in bid to widen HIV prevention options for people at high HIV infection risk.
Data from the 2020 ZIMPHIA Survey puts the current HIV prevalence at 1.3 million people and young women make up the biggest number of new infections compared to males.