Sibongile Maruta Herald Reporter
Government last week launched the pre-exposure prophylaxis strategy (PrEP), which is meant to reduce the risk of contracting HIV.
Speaking at the “Million Men Circumcised” celebrations and launch of the PrEP Strategy in Harare on Friday, Minister of Health and Child Care Dr David Parirenyatwa said the oral PrEP was strictly for those who were at a higher risk of contracting HIV.
“We are launching the strategy for our fairly new HIV prevention initiative and that is, Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) for the period 2018 to 2020,” he said.
“This is an add-on to our bag of tools and approaches for HIV prevention that we had in the past and l am confident you all know that l have always said the best strategy in our efforts to fight AIDS in this country is prevention, prevention, prevention.
“This new comprehensive strategy on PrEP is going to provide us with a strategic direction for how to provide PrEP for those at high risk across all the districts in Zimbabwe.
“I would like to emphasise now that PrEP is not for everyone and neither is it a morning after pill. PrEP is strictly for those who are at a higher risk of contracting HIV.”
Dr Parirenyatwa said PrEP provided up to 90 percent protection against HIV.
“We have evidence that PrEP is effective and if taken correctly, provides up to 90 percent protection against HIV infection,” he said.
“In 2017, more than 3 500 people took up PrEP as an additional method of HIV prevention.
“We are confident that as we will scale up PrEP in Zimbabwe, the number of new HIV infections will significantly be reduced and we will continue to put our hands, minds and hearts together for a better Zimbabwe and a generation free Zimbabwe.”
Dr Parirenyatwa said when one was sexually active, they were at high risk of HIV, and urged the adolescents, students in tertiary institutions, truck drivers, sex workers, discordant couples and the key populations to take PreP pills.
He warned on the use of the oral PrEP pill for life.
“Please, do note that PrEP is not for life, but a responsible choice that one has to make during periods of high risk of HIV infection,” said Dr Parirenyatwa.
“When you are no longer at risk, trained health care providers will guide you on how then to stop taking PrEP and continue with other HIV prevention methods.”
Dr Parirenyatwa acknowledged support of the funding partners, contributions made by parliamentarians and traditional and religious leaders, in making the initiative of reducing HIV infections a success.