Preventing HIV Infection through a Multi-month Supply of PrEP

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Date
January 21, 2022
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Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) for preventing HIV infection, a valuable additional option for people who are at higher risk of contracting HIV, is now available to key populations in Zambia as PrEP's global uptake continues to rise.

Jessy Phiri, a 44-year-old mother and wife, travels about 10 minutes from her home to Chitambo District Hospital in Zambia’s Central Province for regular counselling and HIV testing. While she is HIV negative and continues to remain so, her husband Isaac tested positive in late 2019. Prisca Mulenga, the counsellor at Chitambo District Hospital, began educating Jessy on the advantages of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP)—a medicine for people at risk of HIV to prevent getting the virus.

Studies have shown that when taken daily, PrEP is highly effective in preventing HIV infection through sex or injection drug use, with an effectiveness rate of about 99 percent.

Along with regularly using condoms, which Jessy and Isaac get from the hospital, through PrEP they can help to severely reduce risk of any further infection. “My husband and I use condoms each time we have sex,” Jessy explained. “This is another way I can prevent myself from being infected and getting pregnant.”

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Thanks to support from the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Global Health Supply Chain Program-Procurement and Supply Management (GHSC-PSM) project has delivered more than 327,000 bottles of PrEP (as of March 2021) to Zambia, making it readily available at health facilities countrywide and accessible to people like Jessy. The project has also procured antiretrovirals, rapid test kits, and laboratory commodities so that people like Isaac can continue to live healthy lives.

Jessy’s latest visit to the hospital resulted in taking home six months’ worth of PrEP, cutting down on the number of visits to the health facility that she has to make. “I am very happy about collecting medicine for six months; I will have more time to do other things,” Jessy said. Testing will now be done every three months to ensure she does not contract the virus.

“My husband and I take our medication at 6 every morning. This is easy for us, as we can remind and encourage each other when we take the medicine together. I would also like to encourage those who are in a similar situation…to persevere and adhere to taking medication because once you stop, then you are creating a problem for yourself. We thank the American government for making the medication available.”

Scaling up HIV prevention measures remain at the core of the prevention strategies in Zambia.