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Three PrEP products now available for women

Story by Abigirl Tembo, Health Editor

ZIMBABWE is in the process of introducing multiple pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) products for women as the country puts in place measures to eliminate new HIV infections.

Through a study dubbed ‘The Catalysing Access to New Prevention Products to Stop HIV (CATALYST)’, which is being conducted in 10 African countries including Zimbabwe, South Africa, Zambia and Kenya, women will now have a choice of three PrEP products to prevent HIV infection.

The five-year study, which started in 2021, will according to the project leader, Dr Emily Gwavava produce critical evidence to transform the HIV prevention landscape and inform future scale-up and sustainability of HIV prevention options.

“What we realised as the MOSAIC project that is doing the CATALYST study is that our women are bearing the brunt of the HIV pandemic. I think you have heard of the term feminised epidemic in our context in Zimbabwe so we are bringing two additional PrEP methods in addition to what is already existing, so we are already offering oral PrEP and we are now going to introduce the daprivine vaginal ring and the long-acting injectable cabotegravir injection,”

“We are hoping that the lessons from this will help to inform the national scale-up of these products in Zimbabwe beyond the six sights where we are working. We looked at our ZIMPHIA results, what that study showed is women who are 15 years and above in Zimbabwe are three times more likely to be infected with HIV than men. We found out that there are a lot of pockets of new infections. So, we talk about our adolescent girls and young women when you look at their data samples, they are five to eight times more likely to be infected between the ages of 15 to 24 than the males in that age group,” said Dr Gwavava.

Africa is currently offering only one type of PrEP in the form of daily oral pills but as part of the CATALYST study, two new forms of PreP; the injectable cabotegravir and the dapivirine vaginal ring will be on offer for participating countries including Zimbabwe.

Zimbabwe approved the dapivirine vaginal ring in 2021, while the injection was approved last year.

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