Durban – KwaZulu-Natal Health MEC Nomagugu Simelane has expressed her concerns over the low number of young people using condoms, family planning methods, or the new Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) pill, which is highly effective at preventing HIV infection.
Simelane said according to 2021 Statistics SA figures, the total number of people living with HIV countrywide is estimated at 8.2 million, of which 2 million come from KZN.
She said only 99 549 people in the province were currently enrolled on PrEP, which was alarming considering the positivity rate.
PrEP is a combination of anti-HIV medication that keeps HIV-negative people from getting HIV. It is important to note that PrEP only protects against HIV infection, not against pregnancy or other sexually-transmitted diseases.
“Young people must take advantage of the full basket of sexual reproductive health services available to them free of charge from clinics, community health centres and hospitals,” she said.
The MEC recently launched a Youth Health Zone at Cato Manor Community Health Centre, which is the first of many that will be established throughout the province.
“We have done a lot to train our health-care workers to be more welcoming and friendlier towards young people, and will continue to do so. As health-care workers, it is important that when we are at work, we put aside our parental caps and acknowledge that we are providing a service to everyone, regardless of their age.”
She said every clinic, community health centre and hospital would have a designated corner or area – the Youth Zone – that must be available for use by young people.
"The Youth Zone must make it possible for young people to meet and freely discuss any matter – be it about life in general or health-related,“ she said.
Simelane said PrEP was available and accessible from all primary health-care facilities and hospitals in the province.
She said she was aware that there were those on social media, who dismissed PrEP as “a pill that you drink so that you don’t have to drink another pill (ARVs)”.
“The point that these people seem to be missing is that ARVs are for life; whereas, you can stop taking PrEP if you believe you’re no longer at risk of infection.”