…as part of enhanced HIV/AIDS fightBy Lakhram BhagratThe Society Against Sexual Orientation Discrimination (SASOD) has commenced paperwork to launch a feasibility study on the pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) pill brand named “Truvada”.Objective of the study is to test the viability of PrEP in the Guyana context, and to possibly introduce the pill to aid in the prevention of the transmission of HIV among homosexual males.SASOD Managing Director Joel Simpson“This year, working with the Caribbean Public Health Agency in Trinidad and their regional PAHO/WHO Office, we are going to do a feasibility study on pre-exposure prophylaxis (or PrEP) for men who have sex with men.“There is a pill to be taken every day; (it) will inhibit your chances of contracting HIV by over 90%, so we want to explore whether this is a viable method of HIV prevention for vulnerable groups in Guyana,” SASOD’s Managing Director Joel Simpson said.Simpson told a news conference on Wednesday that the organization is in the process of finalizing its Ethics Review Application destined for the Ministry of Public Health. He added that he foresees no difficulty with the application, since the Public Health Ministry’s National Aids Programme Secretariat has been asking for the data.He said that after approval is granted, SASOD would commence the feasibility study to test the viability of PrEP.Pre-exposure prophylaxis (or PrEP) is when people at very high risk for HIV take HIV medicines daily to lower their chances of being infected. PrEP can stop HIV from taking hold and spreading throughout your body. It is highly effective for preventing HIV if used as prescribed, but it is much less effective when not taken consistently. Daily PrEP reduces the risk of getting HIV from sex by more than 90%. Among people who inject drugs, it reduces the risk by more than 70%.When asked about the reason for the study, Simpson noted that before a new drug is introduced, there ought to be a demonstration project to prove its viability. “Studies have been conducted in other countries on PrEP, but not in Guyana; and one of the things you have to do in public health is that if you are going to implement a new pill or something like that, you have to do a demonstration project to see how it is going to work in your country’s context,” he noted.“We are at the stage (wherein) we are just doing the paper research. We are not going to give anybody the pill in 2018. We are doing a feasibility study to assess what people know about PrEP. If you don’t know about it and we tell them a little about it, what’s their attitude about? So we want to know that there is interest from the community in even exploring whether we should test PrEP in Guyana. This is an extensive survey, and after that we will look at the result and determine whether there is enough interest to go next to a demonstration project,” Simpson added.Simpson further stated that SASOD has already sent Truvada’s manufacturing company, GILEAD Inc, a concept note to inform of the intention to do work around the product. He noted that if it comes to the testing of the actual pill, then the possibility exists that SASOD would acquire a quantity of that prophylaxis drug free of cost for the demonstration that could begin in 2019.He said that to test the drug for a 9-month period on 100 men who have sex with men would cost approximately US$75,000, and with the dwindling resources to fight HIV, there should be a menu of options available.