Zimbabwe leads the way in Sub-Saharan Africa, introduces injectable HIV drug


ZIMBABWE has introduced Cabotegravir long-acting (CAB-LA), an injectable pre-exposure prophylaxis drug, to add to the HIV prevention regime in the country.

The drug, an ARV designed to suppress any infection as it occurs, is for HIV-negative people who have a high risk of becoming infected with HIV.

It is the third pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) product to be introduced in demonstration sites under a study for catalysing access to new prevention products to stop HIV (CATALYST).

The study has introduced the dapivirine ring and oral PrEP as HIV prevention choices for women and CAB-LA becomes the third product to be made available.

Speaking at a health communicators forum in Harare yesterday, the HIV prevention clinical officer in the Ministry of Health and Child Care’s AIDS and TB Programme, Dr Idah Moyo, said Zimbabweans could now access the injectable PrEP at the 15 demonstration sites.

“CAB-LA is a long-term injection for pre-exposure prophylaxis that is meant to prevent the acquisition of HIV for people that are HIV negative and are at a substantial risk of acquiring HIV. Since it is meant to prevent HIV in people who are at substantial risk, this intervention will be implemented in the demonstration sites which means we will get learning insights from those sites and that will inform the country in the roll out of the CAB-LA in the whole country,” she said.

Dr Moyo stressed that healthcare providers would equip clients who came to the sites with the knowledge to be able to make informed choices from the available PrEP products and for them to choose a relevant and appropriate method according to their needs, preferences, and lifestyles.

In 2021, the Medicines Control Authority of Zimbabwe (MCAZ) approved the use of the dapivirine ring and in 2022, it approved CAB-LA, making Zimbabwe the first country in j to approve the product.

Dr Moyo said the injectable PrEP would add to the already existing packages and would be used alongside other prevention methods like condoms as it does not protect anyone from contracting STIs and getting pregnant.

“CAB-LA is an ARV which reduces the ability of HIV to replicate itself. Whilst research findings are there, the country still wants to learn more through the demonstration projects, so the learning will inform the roll out. The healthcare providers in these 15 selected sites have been capacitated on CAB-LA so that after the implementation and demonstration projects, we learn from those to facilitate the roll out in the country. The injection is only administered by clinicians,” she said. Those who are eligible to access PrEP include sero-discordant couples (where one partner is HIV negative), adolescent girls and young women, pregnant and lactating women in relationships with men whose status is not known, are HIV positive or whose viral load is not suppressed.

It is also available for people who use and inject drugs, key populations like ƨǝx workers, high-risk men, and the transgender among others.

Since its implementation in 2016, the country has made significant strides with about 217 461 people being initiated on PrEP. Zimbabwe also reported the ninth-highest number of new initiations among the 120 countries that are reporting on oral pre-exposure prophylaxis.

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