Sex workers and men who have sex with men (MSM) are the most at risk populations for HIV acquisition and transmission. The Anova Health Institute, an NGO dedicated to improving the health of all South Africans with particular emphasis on HIV, welcomes the unveiling of the National Sex Worker HIV Plan for 2016 – 2019, as well as the launch of the much-awaited South Africa Health Monitoring Study (SAHMS). The Plan provides for early treatment and the provision of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) medication. PrEP is a combination of two antiretroviral drugs, which if taken daily by HIV negative individuals, can drastically reduce HIV infection.
Anova was a collaborator in the SAHMS, which is the very first integrated biological and behavioural survey (IBBS) conducted amongst female sex workers (FSWs) in South Africa. The Study revealed that the prevalence of HIV ranges between 40% and 72%. This, despite the fact that condom use with clients is relatively high.
In addition, HIV prevalence among local MSM has been estimated at 10% to 43% in various studies. MSM are at particular risk for HIV acquisition and transmission as biologically, unprotected receptive anal sex is about sixteen times more likely to transmit HIV than unprotected vaginal sex.
Anova, who have recently rolled out their ground-breaking WeTheBrave.co.za campaign in the Western Cape, is of the opinion that PrEP is the most effective form of prevention from HIV and as a result are leading the charge with PrEP demonstration projects in the Western Cape and Gauteng amongst gay men and other men who have sex with men (MSM).
Professor James McIntyre, CEO of Anova, says: “We have been working closely with government in defining policy and urge them to extend access to PrEP to MSM as soon as possible. MSM continue to be at high risk for HIV acquisition in South Africa. The strongest evidence base worldwide for the use of PrEP comes from studies in MSM and Anova believes that this life saving intervention should be made available as soon as possible for all those who wish to use it.”
To this end, WeTheBrave.co.za is the first large scale South African sexual health campaign to specifically address gay men and other men who have sex with men (MSM). Funded by the Elton John AIDS Foundation, the campaign addresses both prevention and treatment issues in an affirming, non-judgemental and sex positive way, which is entertaining and engaging. WeTheBrave.co.za asks MSM to be brave enough to make healthy sexual choices like wearing a condom, taking PrEP, getting tested regularly and knowing their status.