Exploring Treatment as Prevention in South Africa

May 31, 2013

AVAC 2013 Advocacy Fellow, Mickey Meji, has been speaking with South African community members to better understand how treatment as prevention might work for key populations in the country.

The South African government is working to reduce the number of new HIV infections in the country, setting specific targets, but none of these discuss how treatment as prevention (TasP) approaches might impact key populations or address their needs. That is why I chose to gather information about these populations’ experiences and opinions with respect to treatment as prevention and educate individuals living with HIV about TasP so they are able to engage in discussions on the topic and its impact on their communities.

As part of my Fellows project, I spoke with men who have sex with men, sex workers and transgendered people in four provinces in South Africa. They were HIV-positive, negative or unaware of their status. I was nervous at first, not knowing what to expect, but I quickly got the hang of it. I got more comfortable and those speaking with me more readily shared their stories. I found that those taking treatment primarily took medicine for their own health but a few did to reduce transmission to others. Only one person in our consultations mentioned taking PrEP. Feelings were mixed among HIV-negative participants over whether they would use PrEP or not were it available to them.

Over the coming month, I will conclude my community consultations. Then I will work with other AVAC Fellows in South Africa to analyze the information. These findings will guide my future work advocating for the health and rights of these populations.

AVAC is please to announce the call for 2014 Advocacy Fellowship applications. Much more information on the program, including a three-minute informational video, and application details are available at www.avac.org/2014fellowsapps.