Today, on World Aids Day, we ask attention for the ongoing fight against HIV and aids.
Every week 4900 girls and young women acquire HIV, most of them in Sub Sahara Africa (Source: UNAIDS). HIV infections are rising globally after years of decline. As we still do not have a cure for this disease, prevention is of the utmost importance to make those numbers go down again.
Current developments in PrEP, short for pre-exposure prophylaxis, are very promising for global HIV prevention. Besides daily oral PrEP in pill form, several other preventive options are now available. The long-acting injectables developed by ViiV Healthcare and Gilead Sciences are the most promising ones. These new long-acting preventive options can make the difference for adolescent girls and young women who are at increased risk of acquiring HIV. Statistics show that HIV infections are rising fastest in this group. According to the Dutch Aidsfonds, girls have three times as much risk of acquiring HIV than boys of their age.
Oral PrEP is often not accepted by the male African population, which makes it hard for girls and young women to adhere to the needed daily regimen. Factors like stigma, lack of education and the need for parental consent to get tested also play a significant role here. Visiting a clinic for a long-acting injection only six times or even twice per year, would mean a huge improvement in the protection and quality of life of this vulnerable group.
Would mean, because the long-acting preventive option is not yet available on the African market. Zimbabwe is the first and for now only country on its continent where the local regulatory authority has approved this injectable suspension. Production of the medicine for the African market has just started and it is estimated that the first shipments to Zimbabwe will be delivered in the second semester of 2023. Other low-and middle-income countries are hoped to follow Zimbabwe’s lead in approving the new preventive option, but it is hard to predict when this will happen.
The Global Fund’s strategy for the coming 5 years focuses on accelerating the access to and effective use of preventive medicines especially for those vulnerable groups that are at elevated risk of acquiring HIV. Their advocacy is aimed among others at speeding up approval of the new preventive options by local governments around the world.
As procurement service agent for the Global Fund’s PPM project, we procure large quantities of oral PrEP and deliver them to almost 60 countries. We look forward to being also involved in the procurement and delivery of massive quantities of long acting injectables and create an impact on the lives of those girls and young women. The sooner the better, as prevention is key to ending the pandemic. Let’s end AIDS by 2030!
#ENDAIDS #RockTheRibbon #worldaidsday