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Wits not yet accredited to provide HIV prevention pill

Mjo Odwa
October08/ 2017

THE HIGHER Education and Training HIV/AIDS Programme (HEAIDS) announced last week that they would now provide the HIV prevention pill pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), also known as Truvada, to university students. However, Wits Vuvuzela has been told that the university’s Campus Health Clinic is not yet accredited by the Department of Health to provide students with the pill.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says taking Truvada on a daily basis reduces the risk of getting HIV from sex by more than 90%

THE HIGHER Education and Training HIV/AIDS Programme (HEAIDS) announced last week that they would now provide the HIV prevention pill pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), also known as Truvada, to university students. However, Wits Vuvuzela has been told that the university’s Campus Health Clinic is not yet accredited by the Department of Health to provide students with the pill.

The pill will be made available at 12 campus health clinics across seven universities –Vaal University of Technology, Nelson Mandela University, Rhodes University, University of Limpopo, University of Free State, University of Venda and University of Zululand.

Campus Health acting head of department, Anna Moloi, said “We [Wits] are not yet accredited to give ARVs or PrEP. There are criteria that we must meet first. The department of health still has to come and asses our dispensary and that our staff has been trained to give out PrEP.”

Truvada is a pill for people who are HIV negative which acts as a prevention option. The pill is taken on a daily basis during the period when a person is at high risk of getting infected with HIV, especially when a person is sexually active or is exposed to the virus. The distribution of the pill will be overseen by the Department of Health and HEIAIDS.

Director of HEAIDS Dr Ramneek Ahluwalia said in a statement that “PrEP has enormous potential to spare thousands of young South Africans from the HIV epidemic, but only if it is used properly, consistently and responsibly.

“It is vital that students make use of a combination of prevention methodologies – for example combining condom use with PrEP.” He added that “PrEP is not 100% effective and is not a silver bullet. Like any other anti-retroviral treatment (ART) it must be taken consistently in order to be effective.”

Moloi agreed that students still need to practise safe sex while taking Truvada and through condom use. She also encouraged students to go with their partners when getting tested for HIV.

According to Moloi, currently Wits Campus Health conducts HIV tests through service providers because the clinic only has one HIV/AIDS counsellor.

Second-year speech and pathology student, Carmen Kifouni, said “I feel like the use of condoms should be emphasised and made clear. Students will have the misconception that you take it with no condom, but I think it [Truvada] will help.”

First-year electrical engineering student, Riched Zita, said, “People might want to do it the natural way [without a condom] because of the pill. It will make a difference if people use it correctly. We need to do more research about it before we use it.”

Moloi said Truvada would be made available to students for free once the Department of Health accredits Campus Health.

According to HEAIDS, Truvada is approved by the Medicines Control Council. It can cause short-term side-effects such as nausea, tiredness, gastrointestinal symptoms and headache.

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Mjo Odwa