Health experts eye PrEP towards 2030 vision on HIV

LINEO MABEKEBEKE

MASERU – Attention on the HIV epidemic has come a long way since the early 2000s in Lesotho, however, misinformation and lack of knowledge around HIV are said to continue to perpetuate stigma. One way to help educate and shift these attitudes is to shine a light on some of the myths around HIV today.

In an interview with communication expert and head of health promotion and education in the ministry of health, Baraoane Phenethi, said HIV myths and misconceptions are the product of misinformation, but if education is properly provided, it will not only dispel myths but also combat the stigma. 

Phenethi said all that partners together with the ministry of health are doing, is to advocate, communicate and mobilise people, so it is wise for them to come together, so that at least everyone is aware of the effectiveness of the Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) among other HIV prevention tools, including the researches that have been made, and the efficiency of the PrEP.

PrEP is an antiretroviral drug taken by HIV negative people to reduce their risk of acquiring HIV. PrEP is not a lifelong drug, but it is a drug that clients can cycle on and off as needed.

Phenethi said they are trying to make the mission of the ministry of health come true by communicating and raising awareness.

He said: “PrEP is just one of the prevention strategies that we are using; we have the oral PrEP, vaginal ring, as well as the injectable but as a country we have the oral form and, as for the vaginal ring, it has just been piloted.

“Our PrEP commodities are found in all facilities, including Christian Health Association of Lesotho (CHAL) facilities, private facilities, and they are also commonly found in our outreach service points, free of charge.”

He also said there are a lot of myths and misconceptions around health commodities, posing a need to raise awareness on the importance of these commodities so that people can make informed decisions. 

When people are educated, he said, they make the right decisions, so as the ministry of health, they are working hard to see that people are informed. “We are doing all these so that by 2030, at least we should see a significant decline in new HIV infections.

“As the ministry of health, we have a dream, to end HIV by 2030; we are trying everything and anything in our capacity to making sure that we end HIV,” he added.

The presence of all these partners, that are on board, with different activities, is meant to help the ministry of health to achieve its goal.

According to World Health Organisation (WHO), daily oral PrEP is still recommended for all people who are at risk of HIV.

WHO says since youth may require more active support for continuation and in understanding how to safely start and stop PrEP, some may find a daily oral schedule easier to follow, while it becomes difficult for others to follow.

The WHO global HIV programme aims to provide up-to-date information on PrEP use and the adoption of the WHO recommendations on PrEP into national guidelines around the world.