Old Naledi residents have called on government to issue them with free post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) drugs to prevent them from getting HIV infected.
Speaking in Old Naledi on Friday last week during the Gaborone District’s AIDS day, residents suggested that it is not wise for government to spend a fortune in purchasing and issuing lifetime Anti-retroviral drugs (ARV) to its HIV infected nationals, when it denies them short-term prevention drugs.
The residents were responding to a local human rights attorney and activist, Uyapo Ndadi of Gaborone based Ndadi law firm who was addressing them.
In his address, Ndadi explained that it is only people exposed to HIV infection through rape or road accidents who are given PEP.
“Abused women or men who have no say in making sexual decisions, who cannot say no to unprotected sex for fear of violence from their partners are at risk. Some of them engage in unprotected sex even though they know their partners are HIV positive. When they go to a health centre they are told that they cannot be given PEP because they engaged in consented sexual act,” Ndadi explained.
Just recently Ndadi posted on his facebook page that he intends educating the public about PEP.
At the time Ndadi contended that, “everyone must know that it is less risky to have unprotected sex with a person on treatment than the one infected but not on treatment. We all must know that if we had unsafe sex, we can approach private doctors and get a PEP prescription within 72 hours. The earlier the better, and the treatment will greatly reduce chances of getting infected.
PEP treatment usually takes 28 days while an ARV treatment is taken for life.
However, according to government policy, one can only be given PEP if they have been raped or involved in an accident and therefore exposed to the virus.
The argument advanced by government officials has always been that if PEP was to be free for all then it will become catastrophic in the long term as frequent exposure to PEP would lead to even the long term ARV drug resistance.
Nonetheless, in response to Ndadi’s stance, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Health and Wellness, Ruth Maphorisa is somewhat in agreement with Ndadi and has expressed on a personal note that, “I believe as health authorities we have the moral obligation to promote good behavior but we cannot eliminate HIV if we now use morality to address public health issues. Mindset change and targeted interventions is what we need. We need to generate demand for our services and move away from supply driven approaches.”