South Africa: University students can now access HIV prevention pills
Now available at 11 clinics across 7 different South African universities. Source: Shutterstock

The Truvada antiretroviral pill, which acts to prevent contraction of HIV, will now be available at campus health clinics at several South African universities, according to an announcement by the country’s Higher Education and Training HIV & AIDS (HEAIDS) national programme on Tuesday (Times Live).

These schools are: Nelson Mandela UniversityRhodes UniversityUniversity of LimpopoUniversity of the Free StateUniversity of VendaUniversity of Zululand and Vaal University of Technology.

Director of HEAIDS Dr Ramneek Ahluwalia said: “The aim is that any young student in these universities who feels they are at risk of HIV would be able to access the drug.”

Ahluwalia said those most at risk are females aged between 15 and 25, according to data from the Human Sciences Research Council. The rate of “transactional sex” is high in this age group, while their “condom uptake” is low thus putting them at high risk of contracting HIV. Taking Truvada consistently can be effective in preventing HIV up to 90 percent.

Only HIV negative students will be allowed to use this treatment as the drug cannot be taken if the student tests positive. There will be counselling and medical tests before a student can begin treatment.

This is the first time Truvada is accessible to the country’s youth. Previously, it was only available at pilot clinics for gay and bisexual men and to some HIV negative sex workers.

This roll-out will be used as a way to gather data as to whether there is demand for such preventive treatment in South Africa. Times Live notes there have been studies on Truvada and other preventative vagina gels in South Africa and in other member states in the Southern African Development Community, which have failed because they weren’t used.

“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. That is why we are working closely with universities‚ the Department of Health and the clinics to ensure students are properly informed on how PrEP works‚ and what is required for it to remain effective‚” said Ahluwalia.

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