…says it will engage the Public Health MinistryThe Society Against Sexual Orientation and Discrimination (SASOD) is appealing for partnerships with governmental and Private Sector entities as it relates to the distribution of the Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) drugs, a pill that can prevent the contraction of the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) in persons who are HIV negative.Speaking at the SASOD headquarters on Thursday was the organisation’s Public Health Consultant, Dr Nastassia Rambarran, who indicated that a study was conducted by the organisation with HIV negative individuals so as to involve the opinions of the general population.They included 47 persons from Regions Three (Essequibo Islands-WestMembers of SASOD who were part of the team that conducted the studyDemerara), Four (Demerara-Mahaica), Five (Mahaica-Berbice), Six (East Berbice-Corentyne) and 10 (Upper Demerara-Berbice) whereby the level of knowledge, attitudes and delivery preferences in relation to PrEP.According to Rambarran, the daily pill can result in 90 to 98 per cent protection against the disease and is mainly catered for those whose partners are HIV positive.Additionally, sex workers and transgender persons can also protect themselves from the virus but additional protection is needed against other Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs).“There are other forms [of the medication]. However, that [pill] is just the most common one and they’re also working on things apart from that but for now that’s what we have.”While a majority of these persons were interested in the benefits of the pill, they were concerned about the costs attached and the HIV stigma that follows upon inquiry of the drug.Hence, the group is requesting that Government and non-governmental organisations (NGO) take up the responsibility of providing the drugs to these persons. They would also be able to reduce the cost to about US$10 for one month’s supply of the medication.“Persons spoke about some barriers that could impede PrEP uptake and these include the fact that it is a pill that has to be remembered to be taken daily, side effects, denial about risk, lack of education and frequency of blood work. Two major barriers were the cost of the medication, if it had to be bought, and the continued stigma around HIV.Founder of SASOD, Joel Simpson, indicated that the next steps would entail engaging the Public Health Ministry and the National Aids Programme Secretariat (NAPS), given that the advantages of supplying the pills are numerous.“The first place that we think that we need to go is to get this before the policymakers at the Ministry of Public Health. We think we have enough [data] for implementation and our next step will be to meet with the Programme Manager at the National Aids Programme Secretariat,” Simpson.The organisation is also calling for the sensitisation of the general public on the use of pill which can provide protection against HIV if used as prescribed.