AFRICA – In a breakthrough, scientists have developed the first ‘long-lasting’ treatment for people suffering from HIV, Cabenuva, wherein thousands of HIV patients will be able to get the first of its kind injection instead of taking pills every day to keep the infection at bay.
The injection which was approved in the UK will benefit around 13,000 HIV-positive persons who will be eligible for the injection through the NHS, which has been hailed as “great news” by organizations who claim it would make treatment more convenient.
Many HIV patients can keep their infection at very low levels by taking one to four antiviral tablets every day, allowing them to live a near-normal life.
People with HIV are currently able to keep the infection at bay by taking antiretroviral medications on a regular basis. The virus is pushed to such a low level in these tablets that it maintains HIV patients strong and healthy and prevents them from passing the illness on to others.
Patients who choose the new treatment will receive two injections every one to two months, rather than taking tablets every day.
These medications reduce the number of virus particles in the blood, or viral load, to such a low level that it cannot be detected or transferred between people.
However, now that the injection has been approved, many people living with HIV in England will no longer require daily treatment and will be able to receive two shots every two months instead. This means they can cut their treatment days from 365 to six per year, and the injectable reduces the danger of missing crucial virus-control doses.
The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) stated the two injections, cabotegravir – also known as vocabria – and rilpivirine – also known as Rekambys – can be given to adults who have managed to keep their HIV viral load at a low level with daily antiretroviral drugs.
The results of clinical trials demonstrate that cabotegravir with rilpivirine is just as effective as oral antiretrovirals at keeping virus loads low.
When approved for use in other areas, this injection will particularly come in handy in Africa. According to WHO, the African Region is the most affected region, with 25.7 million people living with HIV in 2018.
As per UNAIDS data, of the 4,500 people who contract HIV every day in the world, 59% live in sub-Saharan Africa. East and Southern Africa remains the region most affected by HIV in the world, with 20.7 million people living with HIV and 730,000 new HIV infections in 2019.
HIV continues to be a major global public health issue. In 2019 an estimated 38 million people were living with HIV (including 1.8 million children), with a global HIV prevalence of 0.7% among adults. Around 19% of these people (7.1 million) do not know that they have the virus.
Since the start of the epidemic, an estimated 75.7 million people have become infected with HIV and 32.7 million people have died of AIDS-related illnesses.
This new treatment was announced as the world marks 40 years of the first reported case of the disease. However, treatment has come a long way in terms of advancement. Right now, HIV patients are given drugs to reduce the amount of HIV in their body as part of the treatment and it helps manage the impact within a few months of receiving it first.
With this new treatment, England hopes to eliminate HIV transmission by 2030. Experts believe it could become a reality if the country maintains proper funding and routine testing for the virus.