HIV prevention products are not reaching the people: Expert

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Advocacy for the Prevention of HIV and AIDS (APHA) Co-founder, Ntando Yola says there are options in terms of HIV prevention products, however, they are not reaching the people who need them.

His comment comes as South Africa is joining the world in marking World AIDS Day on Tuesday.

According to UNAIDS, SA has the biggest and most high-profile HIV pandemic in the world, with an estimated 7.7 million people living with HIV in 2018.

The country accounts for a third of all new HIV infections in Southern Africa. In 2018, there were 240 000 new HIV infections and 71 000 South Africans died from AIDS-related illnesses.

South Africa also has the world’s largest antiretroviral treatment programme.

Speaking to SABC News, Yola says there is a range of challenges that the country faces and these challenges are in the midst of a number of opportunities.

“Let’s talk about HIV prevention, it is agreed upon that in order for us or for any country in the world to be able to have effective HIV prevention interventions it has to be looked at through a range of approaches. We have got to have bio-medical interventions; we have got to have behavioural interventions as well as structural interventions. These interventions have to speak to each other. What are these interventions? Bio-medical in terms of HIV prevention, we have a lot of products that are available in order for us to be able to prevent infections and there are a lot of breakthroughs that have taken place in terms of providing us with HIV prevention that should really be scaled up.”

For a long time in the HIV response, he says, “we have relied on condoms, ‘be faithful’,  and abstinence, which has really not worked because they are not ideal for everybody. And now we have pre-exposure prophylaxis, which is a pill that you can take on a daily basis, just recently we have had another result coming through where we have Dapivirine Vaginal Ring?… All these products are good but they are not good enough if they are not fast-tracked to be delivered to the people who need them. Some of the challenges are that we have enough options but we lack in terms of delivery.”

The full interview with Ntando Yola about challenges facing the fight against HIV: