Why HIV Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis Must Be Available in Nigeria

Recent trends have shown why the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) drug which helps reduce infections in HIV Negative population must be available in Nigeria.

Firstly, the outcome of the 2018 Nigeria HIV/AIDS Indicator and Impact Survey (NAIIS) which shows a fifty percent reduction in the HIV prevalence rate from the previous 2.8% to 1.4% among adults aged 15–49 years indicates Nigeria is on the right track to curb HIV/AIDS.

By the new result, it means, about 1.9m people are estimated living with HIV down from 3.4m with the virus in 2016; which according to Director General of Nigeria Institute of Medical Research, Professor Babatunde Lawal Salako, “shows that all the efforts our development partners have put into it (HIV/AIDS), has come to fruition”.

Secondly, the recent launch of the Revised National HIV and AIDS Strategic Framework 2019–2021 by President Muhammadu Buhari  is meant to guide the country’s future response to the epidemic through scaling up HIV treatment and prevention services; explaining why provision of PrEP becomes highly essential and calls for renewed commitment to ensure nothing is left to chance.

Perhaps more importantly, is the fact that the World Health Organisation (WHO)’s recommended PrEP drug, Truvada, which when taken daily by people at high risk of exposure helps to lower their chances of infection   has also been approved for use in Nigeria.

The use of HIV Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis, Truvada, is specially of importance in the prevention of HIV transmission among serodiscordant partners where one is HIV-positive and the other is not, a major reason for its approval by government.

HIV Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP), Truvada involves daily usage of antiretroviral medications (ARV) to reduce the the risk of infection in people who are HIV-negative.

But the recent frequent raids on club and streets across the country of women and girls believed to be commercial sex workers by security agents and the alleged sexual assaults on those arrested have brought to ridicule the non-availability of Truvada in the country.

Participants at an on-going training on New HIV Prevention Technology Research and Technology (NPT) organised by New HIV Vaccine and Microbicide Advocacy Society (NHVMAS) decried the alleged sexual assaults on the arrested Girls saying it not only violates their reproductive rights, but equally put the girls at very high risk of possible sexual infections particularly because some of the security agents were reported to have had unprotected sex with the girls.

Programme Manager , NHVMAS, Durueke Florita explained that if a commercial sex worker for example has tested negative and has access to daily use of the Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis, Truvada, “her chances of being infected even by any positive partner is slim and near impossible”.

Other sexually active people who can benefit from daily use of Truvada as HIV Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis drug are: sexually active young people, males having sex with males (MSM), drug injecting users among other vulnerable groups.

The Nigerian government however claims it does not have money to make PrEP widely regarded as a key tool in the battle against the disease spread available thus raising the fear that the gains of HIV prevalence could suffer a setback soon.

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