HIV Negative kids With A HIV + Partner
Living with HIV could seem like the end of the world, especially in regards to relationships; the feeling that you might never have the opportunity to experience an intimate connection with others because of your condition could be crippling.
However, it doesn’t have to be that way! Thankfully to science, there are options available for people who are intimate with people living with HIV that do not want to contract the infection. The drug Pre- Exposure Prophylaxis (PREP) taken daily by people who are at high risk of getting the infection has been shown to reduce the risk by 90%.
Initially, this drug was administered to only high-risk groups such as gay or bisexual men or people who inject drugs and share needles. But this has expanded to accommodate people who are HIV negative but are in an ongoing sexual relationship with an HIV positive partner. This has also given partners who are considering getting pregnant an option that could help them and their babies from getting HIV infection while they try to get pregnant, during pregnancy or while breastfeeding.
Once one starts their dosage of the pill, they are expected to go for follow up at the clinic every day three months.
Can PREP work after exposure to the virus?
If you have been exposed to the infection either through sex, sharing needs or at work; the best option is to go for the Post Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP). PEP is like the birth control emergency pill but instead of taking it once, you take it daily for 28 days. This antiretroviral medicine works when taken within 72 hours of the exposure.
It is one of my most recommended post-sexual assault cares; remembering to visit the clinic almost immediately or at least in 48 hours could save you from years of living with HIV.
Are there side effects?
Of course! There are some side effects such as diarrhea, headaches, and nausea but they generally subside over time and are not life-threatening.
I can almost hear people asking, “Where can I get it? Why haven’t we heard about this?”
The biggest challenge we face in Nigeria is accessibility! In other African countries such as Kenya, funds from local and foreign partners have made it possible for high-risk people to get the drug free or at the pharmacy for $36; South Africa have made this even more accessible by providing them at some universities as they realized that young women age 15 – 25 were most at risk because of high levels of transactional sex and low condom use.
Unfortunately, the case is different In Nigeria, our reliance on International funds have made it very difficult for us to roll it out to the public. But hope isn’t lost, sexual abuse care center Mirabel center has provided access for rape victims to be able to procure PEP.
However, with over 3 million people living with the disease, it is shameful to know that we have less than 400 people at the highest risk of infection on PREP. In a society, where the groups such as gay men, sex workers and people who inject are ostracized, it is easy to be reluctant to fight for the rollout of the drugs. But, the problem is not going away as one of the main contributors to the HIV burden in our country is serodiscordant partnerships (one person is positive and the other is negative).
But at the bottom of it, the HIV crisis among gay people in Nigeria is a menace we must address. We are seeing higher rates of HIV Infection among the group and because of the stigma; many are open to the idea of marriage just to fit into society. This is an obvious fear of many as it’s a guaranteed pattern of increasing the spread of infection; it is also no secret that Nigeria currently has the highest rate of HIV infected babies in the world.
We need the private sector to get involved by setting up a model for PREP access in order to give people who can afford the drug an option.
But most importantly, conversations on PREP and PEP need to be had! Our Government must be pushed to see the need for it.
Science has made it possible for people with HIV to live a full life; it is unfair that people in Nigeria are not afforded this privilege as their HIV status still continues to define them!