Cause for celebration after HIV studies

Clinical trials show pill can prevent HIV infection, Results from two trials that took place in three African countries (Botswana, Kenya and Uganda) have shown that HIV treatment drugs, taken daily by people who are HIV negative can reduce the chances of infection by up to 50%. The drugs, that provide Pre-exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP), obviously provide a breakthrough in the complexities of HIV prevention and there is cause for celebration.

Vicci Tallis's picture

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Women's Rights activist and Photographer

July 15th, 2011

Results from two trials that took place in three African countries (Botswana, Kenya and Uganda) have shown that HIV treatment drugs, taken daily by people who are HIV negative can reduce the chances of infection by up to 50%. The drugs, that provide Pre-exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP), obviously provide a breakthrough in the complexities of HIV prevention and there is cause for celebration.

It is important to understand, realistically, what this breakthrough means. In Southern Africa, not all people needing treatment are accessing drugs. This is due to different reasons but two are relevant for this discussion: access to sufficient resources (donor and state) to maintain and increase the number of people who are on treatment and lack of health care facilities and personnel that are able to administer the drugs. Our efforts in management of the HIV and AIDS epidemics need to pay attention to both treatment and prevention.

As with other breakthroughs in prevention, PrEP should not be seen as a silver bullet – the factors driving HIV infection are complex, and there is not one solution that will suit all. Principle Investigators of the two studies warn that the task of producing and providing drugs for tens of millions of HIV negative people is clearly daunting. Given that there are times in people’s lives when they are more at risk the use of PrEP might be episodically.

The need for HIV prevention technologies in Southern Africa are immense. It is important though that solutions are driven from the region. Now is the time for civil society and the state to discuss and debate the implications of PrEP in our context to ensure that any potential roll out is appropriate for our epidemics and out contexts.

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