Ugandan, Kenyan and South African Clinicians hit major advance in HIV prevention

A multi-country clinical trial involving researchers from Uganda, Kenya and the Republic of South Africa conducted by the Reproductive Health and HIV Institute of South Africa’s University of the Witwatersrand has presented hope in the prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS.

The reseachers have developed an injectable preventative treatment lasting eight weeks and which has been found to be at least 90% effective in halting new infections.

The treatment tested on men and women separately permits those having intimate relations with people living with HIV not to take daily preventative medications, ensuring much higher levels of compliance in treatment, another huge advantage of the new method.

Initial results from clinical trials show that taking an injection of PrEP and CAB LA once every eight weeks is more effective than taking a daily pill to prevent HIV among women.

However, there is need to find proper means to roll out the treatment and make it widely accessible to people who might not be able to afford it, though final pricing has yet to be established.

“The company that makes cabotegravir (the name of the new treatment drug) has not allocated a cost yet. But what they have articulated is the importance of access, particularly in low and middle-income countries in the region where HIV is more prevalent,” said Prof Sinead Delany-Moretlwe, Director of the RHI at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg.

Researchers also warn that it will take some months before the drug is available.

“We are not looking at something that is going to be available immediately. But this is going to be fast-tracked, both from the clinical research point of view and the manufacturing side,” said Prof Helen Rees, an internationally renowned vaccine, HIV and reproductive health expert who also worked on the study.

“Access in a country like ours, with such high numbers (of new HIV infections) every year, could be a game-changer. But we will have to have a little bit of patience,” she added.

The research was conducted in several countries including South Africa, Kenya, Uganda, Botswana, Malawi, Swaziland and Zimbabwe.

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