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HIV drug preferred to condom

Sunday November 2 2014

Nairobi residents mark the International Condom Day on February 13, 2014. FILE PHOTO |

Nairobi residents mark the International Condom Day on February 13, 2014. FILE PHOTO |  NATION MEDIA GROUP

STELLA CHERONO
By STELLA CHERONO
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More youth and prostitutes are preferring to take HIV prevention drugs rather than use condoms.

They prefer to have unprotected sex and then take anti-retroviral drugs to lower the infection risk.

The number of people seeking to be supplied with the drug, called Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (PeP) in clinics and pharmacies is increasing, according to the programmes manager of key populations at the National Aids and STI Control Programme, Ms Helga Musyoki.

“The drugs should be given to victims of rape and prostitutes who get exposed to the virus in the line of duty. But more people go to the clinics, lie that they have been raped and then ask for the drug,” Ms Musyoki said.

Such people kept going to different clinics and pharmacies because they are aware that the drugs are available and that they are available to everyone who has been exposed to HIV virus.

“It is difficult for the doctors to know the truth. They are supposed to give them because it is the right of every person who is raped to get the drugs.”

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But the problem with using the PeP drugs is that with time, the body becomes immune and render them ineffective, Ms Musyoki said.

“That is when the drug stops suppressing the virus and puts the person using them at a risk and when they do, their bodies become resistant to other anti-retroviral drugs,” she explained.

PeP has been declared by the World Health Organisation as capable of suppressing new HIV viruses if taken within 72 hours of exposure.

Prostitutes say they prefer to have unprotected sex because clients pay more without condoms.

Ms Janerose Wabwire from Kariobangi Estate, who operates in the city centre, said she had been taking the drug every morning for the last five months.

“I have to take two pills; an emergency contraceptive pill and an anti-retroviral drug. I tested negative for HIV in August and so I know this drug helps,” she said.

“Normally, when you ask a client to use protection, they pay three times less,” she said.

Janerose is not the only one abusing anti-retroviral drugs. At the Komboni section of Kariobangi where she lives, she has teamed up with six other prostitutes to collect ARVs from clinics in turns and share among themselves, because, she says, the nurses will not discover their trick easily.

“By the time you go to a clinic again, they don’t remember you or you find a different nurse. And we have to change the story all the time. This time you say you had a condom burst, next time you say you were raped. We just fake stories,” she said.

Sometimes, they buy the drugs from a number of chemists in the city.

According to Dr Joachim Osur of National Reproductive Health, the use of the PeP drug constantly, apart from making the body resistant to treatment in the future, encourages the prostitutes and the youth to have unprotected sex.