SA registers a two-in-one pill that can prevent HIV infection

On Tuesday, Medicines Control Council (MCC) helped secure South Africa’s leading position on the continent in the fight against Aids. In one press release they have allowed a new, extremely easy to use and powerful weapon to stop HIV-negative South Africans from ever contracting the virus. The MCC has officially registered the use of a combination pill of two anti-retroviral drugs as a form of pre-exposure prophylaxis (or “PrEP”) medication; a pill taken once a day that massively reduces the chances of contracting the HIV. 

To do this, the MCC, in collaboration with the department of health and a plethora of medical experts and civil society partners, moved determinedly once the efficacy and safety of these medications had been clearly established. South Africa, therefore, joins only one other country in the world, the United States, in allowing its citizens widespread access to this groundbreaking and formidable HIV prevention tool. 

With South Africa’s high HIV burden, the deployment of this new intervention is profound. As of today, any general medical practitioner can prescribe PrEP. South Africans with private medical aid can motivate for PrEP to be covered by their medical plan. The department of health can now start developing policies for the scale up of PrEP in public sector clinics. The MCC’s ruling therefore blows open the door for far greater numbers of South Africans to access to this potentially life saving medication. 

Yet with this vital new development in the fight against Aids it is now more crucial than ever that remaining barriers to accessing PrEP are removed. Fundamentally this means educating South Africans that PrEP exists and may help them personally and making sure that PrEP can be feasibly delivered in public healthcare settings. 

Around the world we know that knowledge about PrEP is still limited. We must make sure in South Africa that all people at risk of HIV are told accurately what PrEP can do, how it should be taken and where it can be accessed. 

Equally, we must make sure that nurses have the necessary skills and tools to be able to roll out PrEP in public healthcare settings across South Africa. South Africa’s Anova Health Institute, in collaboration with the Desmond Tutu HIV Foundation, is currently implementing the largest state sector housed demonstration project for the use of PrEP. This project, taking place in Cape Town and Johannesburg, will gain the vital experience necessary to enable the department of health to take PrEP to scale. 

Together, South Africans have come an extremely long way in the fight against the greatest epidemic ever to effect us. Today’s statement by the national medical regulator is yet another indication that one day we will beat HIV. Yet among the celebration, we must also remain vigilant. We must make sure that now that this new weapon has been granted to us that we use it judiciously and that those who want to use it have the necessary abilities to do so.   

Andrew Tucker, Kevin Rebe, Benjamin Brown, James McIntyre work as technical experts for the Anova Health Institute.

Subscribe to the M&G

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

Related stories

How US foreign policy under Donald Trump has affected Africa

Lesotho has been used as a microcosm in this article to reflect how the foreign policy has affected Africa

Covid-19 disrupts HIV and TB services

While data is still trickling in on how much the pandemic affects health systems, there are far-reaching consequences for people living with HIV and tuberculosis.

The challenges of delivering a Covid-19 vaccine in Africa requires a new approach

It is imperative that we train healthcare workers and participate in continent-wide collaboration

Covid-19 sets HIV treatment and testing back

Fewer people are getting tested for HIV than last year. People are also battling to access chronic medication. These are some of the lasting effects of the lockdown and the coronavirus pandemic

Covid-19 is an opportunity to make our circles bigger

Xenophobia stalks us in this moment of crisis; our hope lies in humanity’s capacity to rebuild

Eusebius McKaiser: A witness to Covid-19 stigma

Let us please not repeat the devastating Aids story where people died of shame rather than admit being infected by the virus

Subscribers only

Toxic power struggle hits public works

With infighting and allegations of corruption and poor planning, the department’s top management looks like a scene from ‘Survivor’

Free State branches gun for Ace

Parts of the provincial ANC will target their former premier, Magashule, and the Free State PEC in a rolling mass action campaign

More top stories

Vitamin therapy is for drips

It may be marketed by influencers, but intravenous vitamin therapy is not necessary and probably not worth the hype, experts say

Facebook, Instagram indiscriminately flag #EndSars posts as fake news

Fact-checking is appropriate but the platforms’ scattershot approach has resulted in genuine information and messages about Nigerians’ protest against police brutality being silenced

Murder of anti-mining activist emboldens KZN community

Mam’Ntshangase was described as a fierce critic of mining and ambassador for land rights.

Unite with Nigeria’s ‘Speak Up’ generation protesting against police brutality

Photos of citizens draped in the bloodied flag have spread around the world in the month the country should be celebrating 60 years of independence

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…

The best local and international journalism

handpicked and in your inbox every weekday