‘Men lagging behind in PrEP uptake’

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BY PHYLLIS MBANJE
MALE uptake of interventions to prevent HIV such as Pre-Exposure Prophylaxix (PrEP), has remained low despite improved availability and affordability, health experts have said.

PrEP is an effective intervention for HIV prevention, which is recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO) for people who are at a higher risk of contracting the virus.

When taken as prescribed, PrEP can reduce the risk of contracting HIV from sex by more than 90% and from injection-drug use by more than 70%.

While women have embraced the intervention due to their health seeking behaviour, men are said to be still lagging behind in uptake.

Speaking during a virtual media engagement meeting on Monday, the Zimbabwe Associated Church Hospitals (Zach) technical adviser for HIV prevention, treatment and care, Annamore Mutisi said an analysis conducted between October 2020 and November 2021 had revealed a significant rise in clients taking up PrEP.

However, the research revealed that men were still lagging behind in uptake.

“Of the total number of clients initiated on PrEP, 66% were women,” the study showed.

Of concern also is evidence that some pregnant women did not take up PrEP saying they needed to consult their husbands or partners.

Hesitancy was also said to be due to fear of being labelled (stigma) as well as inadequate information on the preventive strategies.

Takunda Sola, a medical officer for HIV prevention in key populations in the Health ministry said the method was designed for HIV-negative people who were at risk of being exposed to the virus.

“The ARVs used to work by preventing the virus from entering or replicating in the body,” Sola said.

Most oral PrEP pills contain a combination of two ARVs Tenofovir Disoproxil fumarate (TDF) and Emtricatabine.

Serodiscordant partners are also another group that was highly recommended to use PrEP. This refers to relationships where one partner has HIV and the other is negative.

Speaking during the virtual meeting, Aids/TB director in the Health and Child Care ministry Owen Mgurungi said Zimbabwe had done exceptionally well in rolling out HIV prevention strategies and recently introduced PrEP as a stop-gap measure for those at risk.

“But despite this impressive progress we still need to reach epidemic control,” Mgurungi said, adding that this would only be achieved through concerted efforts to end Aids by 2030.

Mgurungi said their focus as a ministry was to present and avail evidence-based information so that people can choose the preventive method suitable to them.

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