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First-hand: PrEP options

Phumlani Kango

02 June 2023

Our new first-hand blog series brings you opinions, experiences and perspectives of those on the frontline of the HIV response. 

In this first blog, South African PrEP activist Phumlani Kango shares his personal experiences with using PrEP and explores the growing number of options available for young people looking to protect themselves from HIV

Phumlani Kango

Over the years, we have seen major improvements in the HIV prevention space with the introduction of PrEP (Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis). Some may ask, “what is PrEP?” It is a medicine taken by people that are at risk of HIV so as to prevent getting HIV. PrEP has brought about very positive changes especially when it comes to the sexual health of young people, particularly young girls who are considered to be more at risk of contracting HIV. I have been taking PrEP since 2017 and from my personal experience, a huge positive about PrEP is that it can be taken by anyone and it works very well.  

As health technology continues to evolve, we are seeing an introduction of new forms of PrEP. PrEP as a tablet has been available for a number of years but now injectable PrEP and the vaginal ring are also available. This means people have more choice and can choose what is right for them – we know not everyone likes taking tablets.   

With the tablets, people can either take them daily or use the event-based method which means you only take it when you know you will be having sex soon – talk to a healthcare provider to get detailed instructions on how to do this. The tablets are great because they have been tried and tested with a 99% successful protection rate. However, like with any tablets they can have some side-effects such as nausea, vomiting and fatigue.  Personally, I have never experienced any side-effects because I take my PrEP tablets in the evenings around 8pm before going to bed.   

As I mentioned previously, some people do not like taking tablets hence the injectable PrEP may be an option for them. It is currently being trialled in some countries in East and Southern Africa and has even been fully approved in some countries – not everywhere. But the good news is that it is becoming more and more available in more and more places. The significant advantage of the injectable PrEP is that it is administered once every 2 months – so no need for a daily pill! However, some people are not fans of needles so they might not want this option.   

Another option is the vaginal ring for women which is officially known as the dapivirine vaginal ring. The vaginal ring is inserted into the vagina where it slowly releases the antiretroval drug to prevent HIV for as long as 28 days. The superb fact about the vaginal ring is that once it is inserted it prevents HIV and means women can be in complete control their own protection.     

Take it from me! I have been using PrEP since 2017 and even in instances where condoms have mistakenly broken, HIV transmission is the least of my worries as I know I am protected. Before making a decision on which choice of PrEP to go with, speak to a healthcare provider near you to find out what options are available and most suitable for you.   

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