DURBAN, Young women can now protect themselves against HIV, says the director of the Centre for the AIDS Programme Research in South Africa (Caprisa), Professor Salim Abdool Karim.
His comments came ahead during a pre-conference briefing for for journalist here Monday ahead of the South African AIDS Conference on Tuesday, and followed an announcement by the World Health Organization (WHO) of a drug which prevents women from getting infected with HIV, Truvada.
The main source of HIV in young girls between the ages of 14 and 24 are sleeping with men who are on average nine year older than they are.
Prof. Salim said that until now men were the only ones who could protect themselves against HIV with condoms and circumcision, but now women can take Truvada.
The incidents rate for HIV continue to be high, unacceptably high, and in particular it continues to be high among young women. Young women continue to bear the brunt of the HIV epidemic and they continue to have the highest rate of HV in this country and they in fact are the driving force if you look at our overall HIV incidence rate, he added.
He said the country could not impact the overall incidence rate until it impacted young girls as they are key to controlling the HIV epidemic.
“However, we now have a new technology that women can use. They don’t need the man’s permission. They can use it and it’s a daily tablet called Truvado. It’s up to them and they can use it and that is a new opportunity.
Truvada has been on the market for a while but is not dispensed in government clinics.
So now that situation has changed because the WHO announced that Truvada can be on the essential drugs list. The moment the WHO says it’s on the essential drugs list that means every health care facility has to dispense it as it’s an essential drug, said Prof Salim.
Referring to the conference, he said it would be an important opportunity to receive feedback on what progress South Africa had made regarding HIV.
I think the main theme is while we are making progress on treatment scaling-up, we are really not making any progress on the prevention side. The number of new HIV infections globally is about two million a year and it’s been two million a year for the last five years and that is very concerning. We are not dropping the number of new infections at a globally and it also applies to us here in South Africa.
The biggest component of what is unique in South Africa is why we should have a conference in South Africa?. I think it’s because one out of every five people living with HIV lives here in South Africa, we have one fifth of all people living with HIV and we are only less than one per cent of the world’s population, so it grossly disproportionate.
The HIV epidemic has been steadily coming down in South Africa. “…in fact when you think back 15 years ago and you think of what we have now, it’s a dramatic change in the HIV incidence, we have half of what we had 15 years ago.”
Source: NAM NEWS NETWORK