By Doris Obinna

The New HIV Vaccine and Microbicide Advocacy Society (NHVMAS), has urged the Federal Government to adopt the new prevention technology (NPT) tools that can assist the prevention of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).

NHVMAS, made this call in Lagos at a three – day training for journalists with the theme: “Understanding and reporting NPT research,” while creating awareness about the new prevention tools against the widely spread virus and the critical need for accessibility of these prevention tools in the country.

NHVMAS while reiterating that HIV rate is the third largest in the world, disclosed that these prevention tools; new generation pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), dapivirine vaginal rings, vaccines, injectable PrEP cabotegravir, microbicides, and post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) with its advancement provides different range of choices in safeguarding one’s health in the fight against HIV.

Executive Director, NHVMAS, Florita Durueke, stressed advancement and impact of these tools especially as it empowers women with more option power and increased control to protect themselves from the virus:

“Many women especially adolescent girls are vulnerable to various infections due to social disadvantages, limiting their ability to negotiate the use of essential HIV prevention tools i.e condoms, practising abstinence and others.

“Women are disproportionately exposed to HIV during sexual encounters compared to men. The risks are attributed to factors such as the larger volume of semen compared to vaginal fluid and the higher concentration of HIV found in semen. The new tools help by providing a range of prevention methods as well as seek to address the disparities and empower women in safeguarding their sexual health.”

Stressing the importance of the PrEP ring, she said the World Health Organisation (WHO) approves of the PrEP ring and the Nigerian women should join in the use.

“Dapivirine vaginal ring is a topical PrEP delivered as an intravaginal ring which can reduce HIV incidence among women when used with high adherence. The ring is safe and easy to insert inside a woman’s private part and it is changed every two months and offers a high level of privacy.”

Related News

While urging for the need to introduce dapivirine vaginal ring in Nigeria, Durueke added that the dapivirine ring is a flexible vaginal ring made of silicone that slowly releases an antiretroviral medication (ARV) called dapivirine over the course of one month to reduce the risk of HIV infection.

“The ring was first developed by a non-profit International Partnership for Microbicides (IPM), and two studies were done on the efficacy of the ring; Ring Study and Aspire study, and is currently in use in Kenya and South Africa.

“The HIV tool like the ring could have a meaningful public health impact as part of a comprehensive prevention strategy. If approved and successfully rolled out, the ring would expand choice and increase the number of women successfully using an HIV prevention method,” she added.

Project Officer, Richard Benson, said Nigeria is still struggling with the PrEP accessibility. Benson also noted that people who are most at risk of HIV infection are men who have sex with men (MSM) and transgender individuals. According to him, only couples in HIV serodiscordant relationships were prioritised for access to PrEP in Nigeria.

He said: “Beyond couples in serodiscordant relationships, adolescents should be prioritised to access PrEP. The anatomy of a female adolescent increases her risk for HIV infection; a risk significantly higher than that of a female adult.

“PrEP provides a way for people who do not have HIV to protect themselves from getting HIV. PrEP uses antiretroviral medications (ARVs) drugs created to treat people living with HIV for HIV prevention. The efficacy of PrEP is higher when used correctly and consistently.

“The oral PrEP is used for seven days before exposure to unprotected sex for men while women use it for 28 days before exposure. One needs to be on it as long as he or she is at risk or within the risk population.”