The new anti-retroviral therapy cabotegravir could be a “game changer” in preventing HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) infection in women, said the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV and AIDS (Unaids) on Nov 9 (2020).
Injected every two months, cabotegravir is 89% more effective in preventing HIV infection than daily pills of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) in women, according to the organisation.
“Unaids has long been calling for additional, acceptable and effective HIV prevention options for women, and this could be a real game-changer,” its chief Winnie Byanyima said in a statement.
“If donors and countries invest in rolling out access of injectable PrEP to women at higher risk of HIV, new infections could be dramatically reduced.”
The clinical trial involved more than 3,200 women between 18 and 45 years of age who were at higher risk of acquiring HIV – the virus that causes AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome) – in Botswana, Kenya, Malawi, South Africa, Eswatini, Uganda and Zimbabwe.
Expert monitors stopped the trial earlier than planned because there was “clear statistical evidence showing that the injectable medicine is more effective than a daily pill,” Unaids said.
It added that four women who received the injections became infected with HIV, as opposed to 34 women who took the pills, with all the treatments administered in a random fashion.
“The risk of HIV was ninefold lower with cabotegravir injections than with daily oral PrEP,” it said.
The organisation said that the test results were important in boosting the fight against AIDS by offering women new ways to protect themselves beyond using daily pills, ensuring condoms are worn or abstaining from sex.
“Like with a Covid-19 vaccine, we now must work to ensure that these life-changing injections are accessible, affordable and equitably distributed to people who choose to use them,” Byanyima said. – AFP Relaxnews
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