PAHO develops new mobile app as efforts continue to prevent HIV spread

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

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BRIDGETOWN, Barbados (CMC) — The Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) says it has developed a mobile application that is aimed at facilitating the introduction of a pill for HIV prevention in the Americas including the Caribbean.

PAHO said that Jhpiego, a non-governmental organisation affiliated with Johns Hopkins University, was also involved in the development of the application. It said that while new cases of HIV have remained steady at around 120,000 a year since 2010 in Latin America and the Caribbean, 64 per cent of them in gay men and other men who have sex with men, sex workers, trans women, and other key population groups and their sexual partners.

“Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) is one of the most effective resources available to prevent new cases of HIV infection. Since 2015, the World Health Organization (WHO) has recommended that PrEP should be offered as an additional prevention choice for people at substantial risk of infection. Daily use of this medicine reduces the risk of contracting HIV by up to 90 per cent,” PAHO said.

It said given the need for practical advice on how to introduce PrEP and begin treatment, WHO developed an implementation tool, called “Oral PrEP” and that this tool consists of a series of modules, available online, that can be accessed quickly and easily via easy-to-view apps for smartphones and tablets.

“Expanding access to PrEP can accelerate the reduction in new infections, particularly among persons at high risk of acquiring HIV,” said Massimo Ghidinelli, Chief of the HIV, Hepatitis, Tuberculosis and Sexually Transmitted Infections Unit at PAHO.

“This measure, together with the use of other prevention methods, including condoms, can help end AIDS by 2030,' Ghidinelli added.

The app contains five modules with information aimed at clinicians, counsellors, pharmacists, HIV testing providers, and PrEP users. It provides details on clinical issues, prophylaxis, criteria and contraindications, drug regimens, use, approach, and advice, as well as on pharmaceutical issues, initiation and monitoring, key messages, and frequently asked questions for people considering starting PrEP and for those who already use it.

PAHO said that pre-exposure prophylaxis is relatively new in the region and that only five countries currently offer it under their public policies, namely the Bahamas, Barbados, Brazil, Canada, and the United States.

PAHO said it offers its member states the option to acquire the high-quality generic drug used for PrEP at a cost of less than seven dollars per person per month, through the PAHO Strategic Fund.

This could reduce the cost of the pill and make it more accessible for the Region's ministries of health.

The launch of the Spanish version of this tool, which has been available in English since July 2018, was announced at a meeting in Guatemala on new paradigms and innovation to help improve progress towards overcoming the HIV epidemic in Latin America.

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