Baku, March 19, AZERTAC
The first injection to offer long-lasting protection against HIV is being rolled out in South Africa and Brazil, as an alternative to daily medication, according to the UN agency UNITAID.
Hosted by the World Health Organization (WHO), UNITAID announced the groundbreaking development on Friday, which it is hoped will boost HIV prevention worldwide.
Developed by ViiV Healthcare and approved by the US health authority, the injection, whose active ingredient is cabotegravir, offers two months of protection against HIV.
“But we need urgent action to ensure people everywhere can benefit,” said UNITAID Executive Director Philippe Duneton.
Like other HIV treatments, the anti-retroviral medication works by stopping the virus from replicating in the body, effectively reducing the viral load.
Although existing oral medication – known as “oral pre-exposure prophylaxis,” or oral PrEP – can prevent HIV in 99 per cent of cases, uptake has been slow and targets to reduce new infections have been missed.
This is often because people with HIV fear stigma, discrimination or intimate partner violence if they take the pill every day, said UNITAID spokesperson Herve Verhoosel.
“Long-acting PrEP could have a game-changing impact, improving choice and making HIV prevention a more viable option for more people,” he told journalists in Geneva.
However, cautioned Mr. Verhoosel, 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.”
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