By Robin Muchetu
The Ministry of Health and Child Care says pharmacies selling Pre Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) are doing so illegally as the ministry has neither given them the green light nor partner them to sell the drugs.
PrEP is when people at very high risk of HIV take HIV medicines daily to lower their chances of getting infected. PrEP can stop HIV from taking hold and spreading throughout a person’s body.
It is highly effective for preventing HIV if used as prescribed, but it is much less effective when not taken consistently.
The deputy director Aids and TB Unit Dr Tsitsi Apollo said she was not aware of the sale of the drugs.
“It is actually news to me, we have not yet partnered with the private sector for the sale of these drugs. For them to be able to sell PrEP we need a memorandum of agreement with them which allows them to sell,” said Dr Apollo.
She said when the Health Ministry was ready it would enter into partnerships with those in the private sector so that they could also sell the drugs legally.
She also bemoaned that the private sector was selling the drugs before the World Health Organisation had issued the PrEP guidelines for Zimbabwe.
The PrEP guidelines were only launched last week in Kwekwe at the World Aids Day Commemorations at Mbizo Stadium but the drugs had already flooded the market prior to their guideline launch.
The Health Ministry said it was unacceptable for pharmacies to be selling PrEP drugs without consent from the Ministry.
Dr Apollo advised the public to report cases of that nature to them.
The pharmacies are also accused of selling HIV self test kits before the Ministry had agreed that they be sold.
PrEP reduces the risk of getting HIV from sex by more than 90 percent. The Health Ministry said the risk of getting HIV from sex could be even lower if one combines PrEP with condoms and other preventive methods.
A combination of two HIV medicines (tenofovir and emtricitabine), sold under the name Truvada is approved for daily use as PrEP to help prevent an HIV negative person from getting HIV from a sexual or injection-drug-using partner who’s positive.
PrEP on the other hand does not give one protection against Sexually Tansmitted Infections.
PrEP is considered for people who are HIV negative and at very high risk of HIV infection. This includes anyone who is in an ongoing relationship with an HIV positive partner.
PrEP is also only for people who are at substantial risk of HIV infection. For people who need to prevent HIV after a single high-risk event of potential HIV exposure such as sex without a condom, needle-sharing injection drug use, or sexual assault there is another option called post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP). Sunday News