THE Government is rolling out the newly proven HIV prevention method of taking an antiretroviral drug before exposure to HIV risk (known as preexposure prophylaxis - PrEP).
A report on New Vision TV quoted Dr Flavia Namatovu saying the new method of HIV prevention will be rolled out in seven sites first, before spreading out to the rest of the country when resources allow.
The pioneer sites include Kasensero, Rakai, Mulago Hospital and Kabwohe in Sheema district.
Namatovu, who is a researcher with Makerere University - Johns Hopkins University Research Collaboration (MUJHU), is quoted saying a single ARV pill, known as Truvada, can considerably reduce the risk of contracting HIV from unprotected sex if taken before exposure.
To take the pill, one must first prove that he or she is HIV-negative because a positive person taking a single pill can compromise the effectiveness of Anti-Retroviral Therapy (ART), taking it at a lower dose.
The pills will be provided in public health facilities.
“PrEP is an additional method of prevention and not a replacement of the already existing methods,” Namatovu warned. “It will work alongside condoms, abstinence and adherence to ART to suppress the virus, which reduces the chances of an infected person passing on the disease. And it is not for everyone, but for people at substantial risk of HIV acquisition.”
Namatovu advises the user of the pill to stop taking it immediately when they are sure the risk has stopped.
She adds that training of health workers on how to administer this pill is already underway, within the selected pioneer districts.
In 2015, the World Health Organisation (WHO) released guidelines and a policy brief recommending the drug to be offered as a choice to people who are at substantial risk of HIV infection.
Since the study results came out in 2015, HIV activists have been demanding that government avails PrEP to at least people at substantial risk of acquiring HIV.
These include commercial sex workers, fishermen, long truck drivers and uniformed services.
A PrEP trial that started in 2007 in six countries on four continents found that people who took PrEP as prescribed, reduced their risk of infection by 99%.
A follow-up trial across Uganda and Kenya among 4,758 couples in which one partner was HIV-positive found that the risk of HIV infection was reduced by 62% among those who took Tenofovir and 73% among those who received Truvada.
Additionally, a number of trials have shown the effectiveness of PrEP in preventing HIV infection among women at a high risk of HIV.
In December 2015, South Africa became the first country in sub-Saharan Africa to issue full regulatory approval of PrEP and to include it in its national HIV programme.
It was followed swiftly by Kenya and Rwanda in Africa.