Studies have shown that PrEP reduces the risk of getting HIV from sex by about 99 per cent when taken consistently, thereby providing an effective biomedical prevention option for HIV-negative people at substantial risk of acquiring HIV infection.
A mobile application 'PrEP Uganda'
can now be downloaded from the google play store for those who might need to get
Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP), a course of HIV drugs taken by HIV-negative
people to prevent infection.
Studies have shown that PrEP
reduces the risk of getting HIV from sex by about 99 per cent when taken
consistently, thereby providing an effective biomedical prevention option for
HIV-negative people at substantial risk of acquiring HIV infection.
The drug is recommended and
popularized mainly among the most-at-risk population such as sex workers,
discordant couples and men who have sex with men have until recently been only
accessed at specific facilities across the country.
Although WHO guidelines recommend
that PrEP should be made widely available, the drug which stops the virus from
replicating in the body, is not available everywhere, even in countries where
it has regulatory approval.
It’s on the basis of this that Charles
Brown, the Executive Director of Preventive Care International (PCI), a Civil
Society Organisation that advocates for access to HIV prevention innovations developed
the app to ensure that the public can get information about the wonder pill.
He says that he thought of the
idea after realizing a gap in information where many end up getting infected
because they don’t know how to access the necessary drugs.
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The mobile app can currently be
assessed on google play store for all Android users, while the IOS version is
still being developed. It has a session that allows users to ask questions about
Prep and HIV prevention and get answers from an expert online.
Brown says all the PrEP centres and their contact details have
been uploaded on the app such that even if one is a visitor in an area, they
can easily locate the nearest facility.
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Brown who actively participated
in researches done in Uganda that confirmed the efficacy of PrEP says because
of slow adoption of the HIV Prevention method and the issues that came with it
such stigmatization, he says the approach can help a user go to a place where
they are comfortable accessing a service since the app is downloadable without
requiring any details about the individuals.
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When asked about uptake so far, Brown said they initially tested
it among key populations and self-reporting, some said they had information
about the app and yet others were already using it.
However, while Uganda is still stuck with oral Truvada as the
only PrEP option and only to be provided with prescription of a doctor, elsewhere
countries are considering over the counter access of the drugs in addition to
come up with other drug options for those that cannot tolerate Truvada.
By the end of October, an estimated
10,000 people were using PrEP and yet the target by PEPFAR that provides funds
for the medicine is to have 16800 people enrolled by the end of this year. Also, in addition to oral drugs,
studies are on-going at different sites in the country to establish the efficacy
and thereafter introduce injectable PrEP.
Currently, while it’s not
available for all, Dr Joshua Musinguzi who heads the AIDS Control Programme at
the Ministry of Health says recurrent users of Post Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP),
those that abuse injectable drugs and alcohol and those that have had more than
one episode of sexually transmitted diseases in one year can also order for