Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | As HIV activists around the world are pushing for Pre-exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) and Post Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP) to be accessed over the counter, the health ministry says that it will not be considered in Uganda.
In an interview with Uganda Radio Network on Thursday, the Health Minister in- charge of General Duties Sarah Opendi said there is already reported misuse of PrEP, which can only be aggravated by allowing pharmacies to dispense these prevention medicines without prescription.
PrEP is an HIV prevention method in which people who don’t have HIV take HIV medicine daily to reduce their risk of getting HIV if they are exposed to the virus.
Currently, there are an estimated 9,500 to 10,000 PrEP users in the country whereby they mostly access the drug through demonstration sites and facilities that have been accredited to offer the service.
Among those that access the drugs are discordant couples and most at-risk populations like sex workers.
HIV researcher Dr Timothy Muwonge says that even as these methods have been proved in studies to be effective, a lot of sensitization needs to be done to inform the people on appropriate use and also allay fears that are associated with the medications.
While people are aware of PEP and demand it, many remain largely unaware about the existence of PrEP in selected facilities where they can access these treatments after a review by a doctor.
Muwonge said that while Uganda is still using only Truvada as PrEP, other countries have started using a new drug launched in October called emtricitabine plus tenofovir alafenamide and that researcher are soon planning to embark on clinical trials.
However as this is happening, the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) that is providing funding for these treatments to be accessed free of charge at some facilities had set to have up to 17,000 people enrolled on PrEP by end of 2019 but an estimated 9500 to 10,000 are currently enrolled.