Sharon Chigeza Post Correspondent
THE Zimbabwe National Family Planning Council (ZNFPC) says clinical trials of the recently launched pre-exposure prophylaxis strategy (PrEP) meant to reduce risks of contracting HIV involving more than 90 patients in Manicaland were successful.
ZNFPC Ngorima Youth Centre in Chimanimani district carried out a PrEP pilot study in conjunction with Clinton Health Access Initiation (CHAI) intended to assess the effectiveness of PrEP on the intended beneficiaries.
In an interview with The Manica Post, ZNFPC provincial marketing and communications officer, Mr Daniel Maromo said advocacy meetings and awareness campaigns were held prior to the study to concientise the community on the availability of the preventative measure.
“Youth Centre staff supported by its provincial team and CHAI personnel held an advocacy meeting in February targeting influential people of Rusitu Valley community such as traditional and religious leaders, politicians, school heads and village health workers.
“It was meant to provide information on PrEP as a one of the methods available to prevent the spread of HIV among the sexually active and risk-prone population in Rusitu as well as to create awareness of the availability of PrEP services at the youth centre as a pilot study,” he said.
A total of 94 people were involved in the study with 85 commencing PrEP treatment after a risk assessment. Six other people perceived themselves to be at risk of contracting HIV but declined PrEP.
Mr Maromo said the treatment was received quite well by the users with a very low default rate with women attributing the adherence to being accustomed to daily oral contraceptives.
“There is a very low default rate in the 25 to 34 age groups especially among women probably because most of them are used to oral family planning tablets daily and find it easy to adjust to the demands of PrEP regime,” said Mr Maromo.
He said those who were at risk and came for resupply had an HIV retest and tested negative, which was proof that if taken constantly and correctly the treatment was very effective.
Mr Maromo also said PrEP did not have effects on behaviour change as risk assessments conducted on every visit did not show a decline or increase in behaviour change and that there was need to equip service providers with proper risk assessment techniques to ensure the success of the strategy.
“Health service providers need to be trained to carry out proper risk assessment as it is the backbone to the success of PrEP as a strategy for HIV prevention.
“There is need for the service provider to agree with the clients on resupply dates to avoid default as these clients are not sick and need to be motivated through the provision of appropriate information,” he said.