Last week the Limpopo MEC for Health, Dr Phophi Ramathuba, in partnership with the Higher Education and Training HIV/AIDS Programme (HEAIDS), launched Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) prevention method, oral Pre-Exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) at the University of Limpopo.

“The PrEP roll-out is an attempt to encourage students to take their health into their own hands by giving them the power to protect themselves from becoming HIV positive,” said Dr Ramathuba.

The University of Limpopo is one of seven universities to have joined the nation-wide roll-out of PrEP as a HIV preventative measure.

PrEP, in the form of Truvada and other generics, which reduces the amount of HIV in the body, is now available to students and staff upon request from the University of Limpopo’s clinic, in addition to the HIV/AIDS treatment already available.

When taken daily it can lower the risk of an HIV infection by up to 90%. PrEP has been recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as an additional HIV prevention choice for people with a high risk of being infected.

The announcement of the Universities’ involvement in the roll-out came on the final day of the HEAIDS led First Things First campaign, under the theme “If you think education is expensive, try ignorance”. The campaign, organised by HEAIDS, empowered students and staff by offering counselling, testing and screening for HIV, TB, STI’s, blood pressure, diabetes, contraception and cancer. Students also engaged with health promoters and the Department of Health representatives.

Dr Ramathuba stressed the fact that PrEP is only part of the solution. She told students that the medication works in conjunction with other preventative methods and behaviours. She concluded by encouraging students to prioritise their health in order to achieve their education goals.

“PrEP has enormous potential to spare thousands of young South Africans from the HIV epidemic‚ but only if it is used properly‚ consistently and responsibly. That is why we are working closely with universities‚ the Department of Health and the clinics to ensure students are properly informed on how PrEP works‚ and what is required for it to remain effective‚” said Director of HEAIDS, Dr Ramneek Ahluwalia.

“With high rates of transactional sex and issues of sugar daddies; our young people are amongst the most vulnerable to HIV infection. PrEP is another weapon that has been added to the arsenal of HIV prevention methodologies, made available to our students,” concluded Dr Ahluwalia.

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