Rwanda will be the second African country to introduce the long-injectable Cabotegravir (CAB-LA) for HIV prevention after Zimbabwe.
Zimbabwe approved the drug early last month.
This development comes after the World Health Organization (WHO) released guidelines mid this year in which countries all over the world are called upon to adopt the injectable drug in what was described as “a safe, well-tolerated and highly effective in reducing the risk of HIV acquisition.”
Long-acting injectable cabotegravir (CAB-LA) has the potential to fill the gaps for people at high risk for sexually transmitted HIV who have trouble taking oral preexposure prophylaxis (PrEP), but several factors stand in the way of a widespread roll-out, say authors of a new review article.
CAB-LA “represents the most important breakthrough in HIV prevention in recent years,” write Geoffroy Liegeon, MD, and Jade Ghosn, MD, PhD, with Université Paris Cité, in Paris, France, in this month’s HIV Medicine journal.
Dr. Eric Remera, the Director of HIV Surveillance and Research at the Institute of HIV Disease Prevention and Control, Rwanda Bio-Medical Centre (RBC) told Taarifa that the drugs will be ready in the years 2023 and 2024.
“Without change, the drug will be read by 2023-2024,” he told Taarifa.
“RBC is now, among other preliminary things, engaging medical experts so as to know a number of the patients who will need the injectable medicine,” Remera added.
Also, according to health practitioners, the injectable drug will be accessed within normal criteria where the drugs are picked from health centers.
In addition, the injectable drug will also be accessed by NGOs that normally offer counselling.
“I think this injectable drug will, too, be accessed in NGOs,” Vincent Mugambira, health practitioner based in Kigali said advising that “patients should go to NGOs as an alternative when they shy to approach hospitals once the medicine arrives in the county.”
CAB-LA has been approved by some prominent regulatory agencies including the US Food and Drug Administration, FDA, and Australia’s Therapeutic Goods Administration as per the World Health Organization.
Previous studies conducted by RBC (2018-2019) indicated that over 210,000 people in Rwanda were found with HIV.
Women accounted for 3.7% and 2.2%. Prevalence was high in urban areas at 4.3% than in rural areas with 2.2%.
National prevalence stood at 3%.
WHO says HIV prevention efforts have stalled with 1.5 million new HIV infections in 2021 and 2020.
There were 4000 new infections every day in 2021, with key populations (sex workers, men who have sex with men, people who inject drugs, people in prisons and transgender people) and their sexual partners accounting for 70% of HIV infections globally.
Rwanda is among the few countries that lead in the treatment coverage in Africa of which the majority of the medical initiatives are launched in the country before they spread to other places of the continent.
HIV treatment is free in Rwanda and easily accessible countrywide.