Unitaid today announces an agreement to begin use in South Africa and Brazil of an injection that will protect HIV users for eight weeks (human immunodeficiency virus which destroys the immune defences), said a spokesman for Unitaid in Geneva, Hervé Verhoosel.
He explained that this program will reach a very specific audience:
adolescent girls and young women in South Africa, since today they are the first to be affected by HIV, and transgender people or men who have sex with men in Brazil, who are also very vulnerable sections of the population affected by HIV.
In a statement, Unitaid explains that this injectable version of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) – also called long-acting cabotegravir – is the latest innovation in HIV prevention.
The United States and England have just approved this system, but it is not yet available there.said Verhoosel.
” The cost in the United States is $22,000 per year (per person). Of course, we cannot have a cost of $22,000 a year in developing countries. This is why Unitaid exists and why we negotiate with pharmaceutical companies to have the lowest possible costs. »
This treatment is 70 to 90% more effective than daily oral PrEP in reducing the risk of HIV infection and requires only six injections per year, according to the organization, which raises funds against the diseases.
It also helps to alleviate fears that the pills could be confused with HIV treatment, which would put the person at risk of stigmatization.
Unitaid, in partnership with Fiocruz in Brazil and Wits RHI in South Africa, as well as local health authorities in both countries, will integrate long-acting PrEP into national sexual health programmes.
Highly vulnerable adolescent girls and young women
In South Africa, adolescent girls and young women experience disproportionately high infection rates. In sub-Saharan Africa, young women are twice as likely to contract HIV as young men.
Thanks to Unitaid’s investments, communities in Brazil disproportionately affected by HIV will be the first in the world to benefit from this new preventive treatmentwelcomed the Minister of Health of Brazil, Marcelo Queiroga, in the press release.
In this country, 30% of transgender people and 18% of men who have sex with men are living with HIV, reports Unitaid.
A price adapted to the economy and the needs of the country
The South African pilot project will include a second new long-acting HIV prevention product for adolescent girls and young women: the 28-day dapivirine vaginal ring.
Cabotegravir and dapivirine rings used in these projects were sourced respectively from Viiv and the Global Fund through the South African Department of Health.
Unitaid calls on laboratories to apply for low and moderate income countries a price adapted to the economy and the needs of the country, and in the longer term to allow voluntary licenses to manufacture generics.
Today, one million people have access to PrEP worldwide, well below the target set by the United Nations.