Students at the University of Limpopo are among those from eleven universities across the country that have launched the roll-out plan for an HIV prevention pill, Truvada.
The pill is an anti-retroviral combination drug meant to prevent the virus in HIV-negative people.
The roll-out is spearheaded by the Higher Education and Training Department.
People falling within the 15 to 24 age-group are regarded as most at risk of contracting HIV. Cases of new infections are mainly detected in this group.
The Department of Higher Education and Training says students at tertiary institutions make up a large portion of that group. These statistics have pushed government to begin a process of rolling out a prevention pill as part of measures to reduce new infections.
Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis is not a new treatment formulation in the fight against HIV and AIDS, but for the first time, students can access the pill at campus clinics.
Given Mamabolo was among the first group of students to be administered the drug. He says it is a good initiative that will help reduce cases of new infections among students.
“I saw it as an initiative and also to encourage the first years and the second years as some of them could be the victims of HIV and AIDS. I haven’t felt any side effects. They say you might have a headache and I have never had a headache since.”
The World Health Organisation has recommended the use of pre-exposure medicine to high risk groups as a way of ensuring that new infections are reduced.
Although South Africa has the biggest Anti-Retroviral roll out, government has expressed concern about the increasing cases of new infections.
The University of Limpopo says it hopes the launch of the pill can help prevent cases from increasing.
Dr. Ramneek Ahluwalia from the Department of Higher Education and Training says the process to introduce this medication was done in phases.
“We first had to prepare our universities and secondly, a lot of months in preparation. This means we first had to develop capacity development, the first campus clinic, the nurses; check if they are capacitated to understand and roll out pre-exposure prophylaxis. If a student comes to a clinic, who he gets counselled with, what the side effects are and what are the challenges around them. Remember it is still a medication.”
Ahluwalia has cautioned students who are given the pill not to stop using condoms.
“Please remember this medication is for HIV negative people. It is for them to remain negative and very importantly it is only 90% prevention and not 100%. It still has to be used with condoms. It has to be used with other prevention in any way. It is combination prevention.”
Meanwhile, students at the campus expressed different views regarding the pill.
The programme will also be rolled out at TVET colleges as well as other universities.