The United Nations (UN) global health agency Unitaid has announced the rollout of an injection to offer long-lasting protection against HIV in South Africa and Brazil, as an alternative to daily medication.
Hosted by the World Health Organization (WHO), Unitaid announced the ground-breaking development on Friday, which is hoped will boost HIV prevention worldwide.
Developed by ViiV Healthcare and approved by the US health authority, the injection, with the active ingredient cabotegravir, offers two months of protection against HIV.
Like other HIV treatments, the anti-retroviral medication works by stopping the virus from replicating in the body, effectively reducing the viral load.
Unitaid said although existing oral medication known as “oral pre-exposure prophylaxis,” or oral PrEP – can prevent HIV in 99 percent of cases, uptake has been slow and targets to reduce new infections have been missed.
Spokesperson Herve Verhoosel told journalists in Geneva, Switzerland people with HIV fear stigma, discrimination or intimate partner violence if they take the pill every day.
“Long-acting PrEP could have a game-changing impact, improving choice and making HIV prevention a more viable option for more people”.
“However, Verhoosel cautioned that the high cost of the injection believed to be around $20,000 a year for wealthy nations would be prohibitive elsewhere.
“So adequate and affordable supply must be ensured so people everywhere can benefit without delay.”
Unitaid said the target population in South Africa is adolescent girls and young women, who are infected “at a disproportionately high rate.”
According to Unaids, over the past decade Zimbabwe has made great progress in its response to HIV.
It is estimated that 1.2 million of the 1.3 million people living with HIV in the country are now on life-saving medicines.
Moreover, Aids-related deaths have decreased by 63 percent since 2010, with new HIV infections down by 66 per cent over the same period.