Durban - Wider attention must be drawn to a new HIV prevention approach of “a pill a day”, referred to as pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), Professor Salim S. Abdool Karim believes .
Karim, the director of the Centre for the AIDS Program of Research in South Africa (CAPRISA) based in Durban and CAPRISA Professor of Global Health at the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University in the US, spoke to Kuben Chetty about SA's successes, failures and challenges as we mark World Aids Day on December 1.
Karim is also chairperson of the UNAIDS Scientific Expert Panel and chairperson of the WHO Strategic and Technical Advisory Committee for HIV
and Hepatitis. He is a fellow of Britain’s prestigious science academy, the Royal Society. He is one of only three South Africans to be so honoured.
PrEP is a single blue tablet containing a combination of two antiretroviral medicines – tenofovir and emtricitabine – that has been shown in several
clinical studies to be effective, when taken daily, in preventing HIV infection.
PrEP was first recommended by the World Health Organisation in 2015 as an additional prevention choice for people at risk of HIV. The South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA) approved PrEP in 2015 and the South African Department of Health first adopted this prevention approach with some restrictions in 2016.
The concept of PrEP is not unique to HIV; using effective treatment for prevention is widely applied in diseases such as malaria and tuberculosis.
South Africa has one out of every 5 people living with HIV in the world – it is the country with the highest number of people living with HIV (about 7.9 million). In our country teenage girls bear the brunt of the HIV epidemic.
About 1,500 adolescent girls and young women are infected with HIV every week in South Africa. These girls are twice more likely to be living with HIV than young men of the same age.