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Guyana cautious about introducing HIV prevention pill for high risk persons- Chief Medical Officer

Chief Medical Officer, Shamdeo Persaud

Guyana is cautious about allowing the use of daily HIV prevention pill  by persons who are at a higher risk of contracting the virus because of concerns that it may cause people to be carefree about their sexual life-style, Chief Medical Officer Dr. Shamdeo Persaud says.

The Public Health Ministry is said to be examining data from other countries to ascertain “what kinds of behaviour trends that these will accelerate because people might start feeling ‘oh, well I’m using a protection so I take less care’ and there are some indications that maybe they may see more modifications in these viruses so we are cautious avout this  and we are looking at all of the data,” he told Demerara Waves Online News.

Shamdeo made known the Ministry of Public Health’s position following a call by the gay rights organisation, Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD) for government to introduce Pre-Exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) for segments of the population that are at substantial risk of contracting the virus that causes a breakdown of the body’s resistance to diseases.

The country’s priority, he indicated, is to ensure that most if not all of the more than 8,000 HIV positive persons receive full treatment by the end of 2018, even as government examines the advantages and disadvantages of PrEP. “We are still looking at the pros and the cons regards Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis,”he said. He added that attention is also being paid to other prevention efforts such as the prevention of mother-to-child transmission to ensure that every pregnant woman gets two tests and those tested positive get full treatment.

The target groups will include male homosexuals and commercial sex workers who are not HIV positive, but the Chief Medical Officer said there are concerns about “feeling about safety and the risk” by thinking that they could do whatever they feel.

Government is also considering guidelines on PrEP use that have been issued by the World  is being used in the United States and Canada as well as pilot usage in the Barbados and Jamaica. “We have to wait a little while to see the results of this,” he said.

With a month’s supply of PrEP estimated at US$45, the Chief Medical Officer said there is a cost attached.

A recent survey of 47 respondents shows that 60 percent knew nothing about PrEP, being sold under the brand name Truvada, but when told of the benefits were willing to try it to reduce their chances of contracting the virus.