- Zimbabwe is the first African country to approve the once-every-two-months injectable HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis drug.
- The drug will be part of wider options for HIV/Aids prevention.
- Zimbabwe won the bid to host the 2023 ICASA conference on HIV/Aids.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), “CAB-LA may be offered to people at substantial risk of HIV acquisition as part of comprehensive HIV prevention approaches”.
In most African countries, it includes sex workers and LGBTQIA+ communities, sidelined from access to healthcare because of laws and societal segregation.
In June this year, WHO advised countries to take up this initiative after observing a surge in new HIV infections globally.
“HIV prevention efforts have stalled, with 1.5 million new HIV infections in 2021 – the same as in 2020. There were 4 000 new infections every day in 2021, with key populations (sex workers, men who have sex with men, people who inject drugs, people in prisons, and transgender people) and their sexual partners accounting for 70% of HIV infections globally,” WHO said at the time.
Research carried out revealed that CAB-LA injections every two months were safe, well-tolerated, and highly effective in reducing the risk of HIV acquisition among men who have sex with men, as well as transgender and cisgender women.
Dr Meg Doherty, director of WHO’s Global HIV, Hepatitis and Sexually Transmitted Infections Programmes, commended Zimbabwe for the ground-breaking decision.
“WHO welcomes the news that Zimbabwe has approved the use of CAB-LA, which will pave the way for its use, providing more safe and effective options for HIV prevention,” she said.
Nyasha Sithole, from the Development Agenda for Girls and Women in Africa Network (DAWA) in Zimbabwe, was overjoyed that “this will contribute to our basket of HIV prevention tools that work for us as girls and women in Zimbabwe”.