Wits University study finds injection to prevent HIV is more effective than pill

Cape Town- One injection given every two months has proved to be 89% more effective than a daily pill at preventing HIV in women, according to a study by the Wits Reproductive Health and HIV Institute (WRHI).

Having an alternative to taking daily pills could be a game changer for individuals who struggle to take the pills due to stigma or other privacy issues.

Researchers from the HIV Prevention Trials Network (HPTN) announced on Tuesday that data from the clinical trial of the long-acting Cabotegravir injections were a safe and superior prevention option among women in sub-Saharan Africa.

Around 3 224 uninfected women from ages 18 to 45 years participated in the trial, known as the HPTN 084 trial. Women from twenty countries who are at risk for acquiring HIV were the focus of the study.

The injectable drug, Cabotegravir is being developed by ViiV Healthcare, which is owned by GlaxoSmithKline, along with Pfizer Inc and Shionogi Limited.

38 women in the trial acquired HIV. While both methods were highly effective at preventing HIV, long-acting cabotegravir was 89% more effective than the daily pill.

Executive Director of WRHI, Professor Helen Rees, said the results of the study are a milestone for prevention of HIV among women at risk of HIV worldwide.

“If we are to turn the tide on the HIV epidemic, we will need prevention options that work for women in sub-Saharan Africa. These findings provide great hope and motivation for additional studies to show safety and acceptability in adolescents, pregnant and breastfeeding women,” she said.

Study leader at WRHI, Dr Sinead Delany-Moretlwe said that the long-acting injections which would be administered every eight weeks could provide women with a welcome alternative to the daily regimen of Gilead Science’s Truvada pill.

According to Unaids, a United Nations organisation leading the global fight against HIV and AIDS, women and girls in sub-Saharan Africa accounted for 59% of all new HIV infections.

Globally around 25.4 million people were accessing antiretroviral therapy last year while 38.0 million people were living with the virus.

Delany-Moretlwe said that young women may be twice as likely as men to get HIV in some areas of the world.