Wits RHI’s Project PrEP- The launch of Project PrEP study

31 August 2023

The study will generate real-world data on integrating a new PrEP method, the Dapi-ring, to protect women against sexual transmission of HIV.

In 2016 South Africa was one of the first countries in the world to approve and begin the rollout of oral PrEP, or rre-exposure prophylaxis, for populations at significant risk of HIV. Since then, South Africa has made significant progress with over a million individuals having been initiated on oral PrEP.

In 2021, the World Health Organization recommended that the dapivirine ring (PrEP ring) may be offered as an additional HIV prevention choice for women. In 2022, the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA) approved this monthly vaginal ring for use by adult women (18 years and older) to protect against sexual transmission of HIV.

On August 18, 2023, Project PrEP, an initiative funded by Unitaid and implemented by the Wits Reproductive Health and HIV Institute (Wits RHI), proudly introduced the PrEP ring, now registered as Dapi-Ring, as an additional choice for PrEP at Maria Rantho Clinic in Soshanguve, Tshwane, and will be rolled-out to other provinces over the coming weeks.

This implementation science study is implemented in close collaboration with the national and district Departments of Health, young people, and communities. The study will generate real-world data on integrating a new PrEP method, the Dapi-ring, in addition to oral PrEP, and will address a global gap in evidence on understanding choice and patterns of use of different PrEP methods.

The event was attended by over 50 stakeholders, including the Clinic Committee, facility managers, representatives from the District and National Department of Health (DoH), local HIV Prevention Ambassadors, young individuals, as well as head-office and Tshwane district-based staff from Wits RHI.

Enthusiastic about the potential insights this study will bring and the subsequent impact on national and global policy and guidelines, Professor Saiqa Mullick, Director: Implementation Science, emphasised that the Dapi-Ring will effectively address global evidence gaps related to understanding preferences and patterns of usage among various PrEP products. Moreover, the study aims to shed light on the possibilities presented by decentralised PrEP services.

“We are excited about the insights this study will bring, and the impact it will have on national and global policy and guidelines. The study not only signifies a ground-breaking advancement in the field of HIV prevention, but also symbolises our shared resole to bridge the gaps in user-centred access and care,” said Mullick.

T.L. Sheba, representing the community as a clinic committee member, expressed gratitude for the support extended by Project PrEP to the community. He remarked, “With support from Project PrEP we managed to improve provision of youth services including provision of PrEP to reduce HIV infection. We are incredibly happy as we take another step forward and hoped that it will assist our community especially the youth to live a better life.”

Equally appreciative of the innovative PrEP method, Emma Mabula, the facility manager of Maria Rantho Clinic, shared that her clinic was the first in the area to introduce oral PrEP in 2019. She found special pride in the fact that her clinic is once again at the forefront, being the first to offer the new Dapi-Ring. Local youth also voiced their support for this ground-breaking innovation.

Hasina Subedar from the National DoH conveyed gratitude to all Healthcare Providers for their pivotal role in implementing the national PrEP programme. She underlined the significance of the Dapi-Ring’s introduction, deeming it revolutionary and timely, as it provides an additional option for clients, especially those facing challenges with the daily oral PrEP regimen.

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