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Low uptake of HIV prevention pills alarms health officers

Reproductive Health - By Ignatius Odanga

Health officials in Busia are concerned about the low uptake of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) drugs.

People at risk of getting infected with HIV and Aids do not go for pills even as the county’s prevalence rate remains higher than the national average, the officials have said.

HIV infection in Busia stands at 6.7 per cent compared to the country’s 4.7 per cent. There are at least 39,168 people living with HIV and Aids in Busia County.

Those identified as high risk include sex workers, gay couples, drug addicts and discordant couples.

However, they do not go for pills in public health facilities, said Busia County Aids and Sexually Transmitted Coordinator Constance Were.

The pills (Truvada) contain two medicines (tenofovir and emtricitabine) used in combination with other medicines to suppress the Aids causing virus - HIV.

Ms Were said PrEP reduces the risk of getting HIV from sex when taken daily. It also reduces the risk of getting HIV among people who inject themselves with drugs by at least 74 per cent when taken daily but less effective when taken inconsistently.

A meeting between the health department and sex workers established the low uptake was mainly because targeted beneficiaries feared being mistaken for being HIV-positive due to the way the pills are packaged.

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