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HIV prevention pill targets high risk individuals

Publishing Date : 29 April, 2019

Author : KEAMOGETSE MOTONE

The Botswana Network on Ethics, Law and HIV/AIDS (BONELA), an organisation dedicated to fighting HIV/AIDS,  has confirmed with this publication that they are introducing a pill called Pre Exposure Prophylaxis (PrPEP) which prevents HIV transmission amongst partners.


The pill however will only be given to sex workers, Gay men as well as other people who are at a high risk of contracting the virus. The program objective is to accelerate the provision of Pre Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) to 88 percent of people assessed to be at substantial risk of HIV infection by 2023. The pill also targets negative adolescent girls and young women.


According to the third report made by the National Strategic Framework (NSF), PrEP is one of the components of HIV prevention methods. In Botswana, PrEP was recommended by the Clinical Care guidelines committee in June 2016. It has been established that PrEP is an acceptable intervention for high HIV risk populations. The Ministry of Health and Wellness together with non-governmental organisations, has initiated a phased roll out of PrEP, starting with female sex workers and man who sleep with men, followed by adolescent girls and young women, and eventually to the general population.


“It is necessary for PrEP to be initiated by an experienced health care provider who has been trained to recognize physical signs and symptoms of early HIV infection and STIs,” the report noted. The report further highlighted that the health care providers initiating PrEP need to provide comprehensive counselling and education to clients regarding strict adherence to PrEP to prevent HIV transmission. Currently, PrEP services are being piloted in two public health facilities and it is also offered in through the private sector. PrEP will be scaled up to all districts in the next five years.


The Legal Liason Officer, Tebogo Gareitsanye established with this publication that the reason why the pill is administered to a certain kind of group is because of the kind of lifestyle they live. “They are the most affected, let us address them first. HIV prevalence has reached heights within these groups and hence why they need to be given attention first,” she said. She further explained that the pill will not be given to the entire public as they do not want people to be irresponsible. As for now the PrEP is for the mentioned groups only.


“I am very weary of saying PrEP should be given to the public because it is not cost effective, “she highlighted. Another report made by  Ministry of Health and Wellness in 2017, stated that models have demonstrated that certain sexual behaviours and other risk behaviours often hidden populations such as sex work, injection drug use, and male-to-male sex have been the driving force behind concentrated epidemics.


LEGABIBO’s community Mobilisation and strengthening Manager, Bradley Fortuin highlighted that PrEP is drug that when taken daily, it reduces one’s chance of getting infected with HIV by up to 92 percent. “According to studies and Ministry of Health and Wellness, this initiative was adopted in their various programs in an attempt to help to reach the 95 goals which is for people to get tested, know their status and get enrolled in treatment. If you are HIV positive, you get enrolled in the Treat All program immediately. If you are negative and found to be at a high risk of contracting HIV you are referred to PrEP,” he explained.


He further explained that the pill is available in Botswana in limited Non-Governmental Organisations and a limited group of people including couples with mismatched HIV/AIDS status. “Men who sleep with men are enrolled at LGABIBO and Man and Health and Gender Justice. For sex workers it is rolled out through Nkaikela Youth Group,” he said. Fortuin also stated that although the pill is being dispensed, they do not encourage carelessness as the pill does not prevent HIV but reduces the chances of contacting HIV.


“It does not prevent STI’s and we still encourage people to use condoms. People are encouraged to be safe,” he said. This initiative was facilitated through the LINKAGES program under FHI 360 Botswana and it was endorsed by the Ministry Health and Wellness in partnership with PEPFAR. “This are initiatives we have been advocating for, health packaging and health services in our LGBT community. These are some of the interventions that we have called out for,” he explained.

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