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Activists warn against dismissal of PrEP in Uganda

Thursday, 5 September, 2013

The Government of Uganda has rejected the proposed use of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) as an HIV prevention tool in the country. This move is being questioned by activists who believe that, as part of a combination prevention package, PrEP is a proven and effective HIV prevention method. The government has dismissed the use of PrEP on the grounds that it would encourage ‘reckless sex’ and that it is ‘morally unfit’ to place HIV negative people on treatment when universal access among HIV positive people has not been achieved. Activists are calling on the government to reconsider to ensure that this is not a missed opportunity to curb new HIV infections.

PrEP is a special course of HIV treatment that aims to prevent people from becoming infected with HIV. It is intended for people at-risk of exposure, for example, serodiscordant couples (where one partner is HIV-positive and the other is HIV-negative) - the negative partner takes a daily dose of two antiretroviral drugs to protect them from infection. In 2012, the use of PrEP in this way - marketed as Truvada – was approved in the United States by the Food and Drug Administration and roll-out is being considered in other countries.

The HIV prevalence in Uganda has increased from 6.4 percent to 7.3 percent in the last 5 years, with around 400 people becoming newly infected each day. This signifies a real need to consider all potential HIV prevention strategies to bring the epidemic under control. A PrEP study partially conducted in Uganda with serodiscordant couples proved to reduce HIV transmission by 73 percent, compared to a placebo. Globally, trials have not indicated an increase in risky sexual behaviour as a result of taking PrEP.

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