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Pre-exposure prophylaxis drugs drive down HIV rates in Zim

Pre-exposure prophylaxis drugs drive down HIV rates in Zim

Story by Abigirl Tembo, Health Editor

ZIMBABWE has witnessed a significant decline in HIV-related deaths and new infections after the introduction of various pre-exposure drugs.

Over the past eight years, the country has initiated over 200 000 people on Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) medication, ranking ninth globally among nations on oral PrEP use.

The widespread access has played a key role in reducing AIDS-related deaths, which have plummeted from an estimated 130 000 in 2002 to 20 000 in 2021.

The fight against HIV has been further bolstered by the introduction of Cabotegravir (CAB-LA), a long-acting injectable PrEP medication.

Although not yet widely accessible, the Ministry of Health and Child Care officer, Dr. Idah Moyo says CAB-LA is currently undergoing evaluation at designated demonstration sites.

“So, of note is that the Cabotegravir long-acting injection pre-exposure prophylaxis is being delivered under the demonstration site and is coming in according to what is already existing, the demonstration project. When we are implementing, we will be assessing as we go along. So, it can take up to a year, because for the country to roll out, you should have adequate evidence. The country will be analysing the learnings of what is coming up. This is a demonstration and we will be getting the perspective from the recipient of care.”

National AIDS Council chief executive officer, Dr Bernard Madzima expressed optimism about the injectable PrEP’s impact.

“Prep is one of the methods which we are using in Zimbabwe to prevent HIV transmission over the years we have been using Prep using oral ARVs bus as you have heard we now have cabotgravir which is an injectable which is administered once every two months and is part of a combination of ARVs which are being used in the country to combat HIV before someone has been infected.

“The importance of Prep is that it has to be used with other methods of preventing HIV you don’t want to then say because we have prep we abandon the traditional preventive like condoms what we have done is we note that cabotgravir is an ARV and in this case, we are administering it to an HIV negative person so the important thing is to identify the people who are at high risk of contracting HIV.”

The injectable drug has been added to the dapivirine vaginal ring and oral PrEP as additional HIV prevention options for women.

This has solidified Zimbabwe’s progress in exceeding the UNAIDS 95-95-95 target meant to have 95% of people living with HIV knowing their status, 95% of those who know their status on treatment, and 95% of those on treatment virally suppressed.