Minister urges sex workers to be initiated on PrEP

Source: Minister urges sex workers to be initiated on PrEP – NewsDay Zimbabwe July 20, 2017

HEALTH minister David Parirenyatwa has called for sex workers to be initiated on pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) early to prevent new HIV infections.

By Phyllis Mbanje

PrEP, which provides an additional prevention option for those at risk of HIV, is a combination of antiretroviral drugs taken once a day to reduce the risk of contracting HIV.

Officially opening the Southern Africa AIDS Dissemination Service (SAfAids) regional symposium on gender norms transformation, Parirenyatwa said PrEP should be given to high risk populations like sex workers.

“Sex workers should be given PrEP indefinitely because they are on duty all the time. We need to close all the tapes on new infections,” he said.

Touching on HIV infection in prisons, the minister said the matter needed to be dealt with, considering that there is an HIV prevalence rate of 28% in jails.

“We all know there is something going on in the prisons. We need to address it,” he said.

Speaking on the involvement of men, which was one of the key themes of the gathering, the minister said there was need to transform gender roles and promote equitable relationships.

“These are the enabling factors in reducing HIV, gender-based violence and promoting positive sexual reproductive health rights,” Parirenyatwa said.

In her opening remarks, SAfAids director, Lois Chingandu said it was critical to figure out how to work with both boys and girls.

“Often, men are ignored but equality is important in addressing issues like HIV and Aids and so this platform is for sharing experiences,” she said.

Chingandu explained to delegates from the Sadc region that the theme of the symposium, Changing the River’s Flow was designed to address gender disparities by changing mindsets, which at times are deeply entrenched in cultural and religious norms.

Speaking at the same event, Sonke Gender Justice (South Africa) acting executive director, Bafana Khumalo challenged men to discuss masculinity and hold each other accountable.
“We need to acknowledge the part we play in fueling HIV infection and gender-based violence (GBV),” he said.

“South Africa is rated highest on rape and GBV and we need to interrogate the ‘cost of manhood’.”

Sonke is working in partnership with SAfAids on the gender norms programme.

Meanwhile, Claude Mararike from the University of Zimbabwe, said language was one of the issues that needed to be redefined.

“It is how we speak that perpetuates all these cycles of violence, men demeaning women, who are viewed as objects,” he said.