With correct use, PrEP can protect men from contracting HIV
Steve Ogolla and his wife Josephine Anyiko (not their real names) are a discordant couple from Homa Bay County. They have been married for five years with two children. Anyiko is living with HIV while Ogolla HIV negative and their two children are healthy.
Anyiko is currently three months pregnant and hoping to deliver her baby in mid-September. She contracted HIV while still at her village with a former boyfriend before getting married.
“I used to have a man from my village who promised to marry me upon completing my technical training in tailoring. Unfortunately, he never kept his promise and I also discovered that he had several other girlfriends besides me and so we parted ways,” Anyiko says.
She explains: “I did not know that he had infected me until the day my current husband proposed to me and insisted we take a HIV test before getting married.”
Anyiko recalls she wanted to commit suicide when she discovered her new status. It was like the whole world had been placed on her shoulders.
“That was long day and the worst moment in my life. I wished the earth could open up to swallow me,” Anyiko recalls.
Ogolla, with his love for her decided to stand with Anyiko though his mind was boggling with a lot of questions.
One was whether to leave her alone, hook her up with another HIV infected man or cut all connections and contacts and move on with life or accept her.
He thought of the consequences and made up his mind to support her since she was only infected not going to die the next day.
“I had difficult time to make decision since I really loved her and wanted to spend the rest of my life with her. Before deciding to marry, I consulted HIV experts, family and friends who assured but cautioned me of health related issues,” Ogolla discloses.
Ogolla said he found himself planning for a wedding despite precautions. After the wedding, it came to his realisation that they were to live as husband and wife, bear children and support each other as family.
“After marriage I confirmed that my wife was actually HIV positive and was using ARVs drugs despite prior knowledge. It was the reality so I had to use condoms during sex to protect myself. I could not see ourselves having children together,” says Ogolla.
However, he was introduced to Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) that could reduce his chances of contracting HIV, he never looked back but welcomed the idea. Today they have two children, a boy and girl aged four and two respectively and his wife is currently three months pregnant.
“I usually take an HIV test after every three months just to confirm my status as recommended by the physician. The truth of the matter is that I am still HIV negative almost six years since we got married,” Ogolla affirms.
“PrEP has really protected me against contracting HIV but I also use condoms just in case. For purposes of planning to have a baby, we always agree with my wife so that I swallow the pills for at least seven days before having unprotected sex,” he reveals.
Ogolla admits his wife is such an understanding person who even reminds him and ensures he takes the pills once they agree on her getting pregnant. However, he advises fellow men to use condoms carefully and correctly for maximum protection while Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) has to be strictly taken concertedly as long as the partner is at risk.
Scientists and researchers have not relented the fight against HIV infection. Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) has now been confirmed as an anti-HIV medication that protects HIV negative people from becoming infected.
Men who are HIV negative can now take PrEP to prevent them from contracting HIV during sex. The drug has been tested and approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and found to be safe and effective.
It is desirable and currently and has been available for free in all public health facilities and hospitals countrywide having been piloted in Kisumu, Nairobi and Central Kenya regions.
However, any man who would like to use the drug must first be tested for HIV and found to be negative. The HIV negative man then has to take the pills for at least seven days before getting sexual exposure to a woman who is HIV vulnerable.
The taking of the drug has to continue for another few days after engaging in sexual intercourse with HIV positive woman. These steps must be followed to ensure the drug remains effective for intended purpose of preventing the man from contracting HIV from an infected woman.
“The drug works best when it has stayed in the blood system for at least seven days concertedly in advance before the user is exposed to HIV via sexual intercourse,” explained Elizabeth Irungu, a researcher at Kenyatta National Hospital.
Scientists caution users of PrEP that the drug is for only HIV negative men who are at high risk of contracting HIV. However they emphasized that discordant couples, long distance truck drivers and other vulnerable groups have to take the pills every day.
Irungu advises that the drug is not supposed to be used as a mechanism to promote promiscuous behaviour among men but just as a measure to reduce chances of HIV infection to certain level. Additionally, careful use of male condom is encouraged just to ensure one is safe and well protected.
HIV prevalence is still very high despite availability of condoms simply because the product is never used accurately as intended. Some men wear it inside out, break it while tearing or keep it in heated place hence bust on the process of sex.
“Even men who use condoms still contract HIV because most of them never use it well. Again condoms just prevent one’s chances of contracting HIV by certain percentage but only if used correctly,” Irungu noted.