South Africa begins rollout of cutting-edge HIV drug today – The Guardian of South Africa has reported that the country begun rolling out what it named a “a state-of-the-art antiretroviral drug” the drug has been rolled out with the aim cut down on the number of People Living with HIV (PLHIV) in the country.
The distribution of the drug is to coincide with today, World AIDS Day.
The country’s health minister, Zweli Mkhize, said it was “the fastest way to reduce HIV viral load”. The medicine is said to have fewer side effects and will be easier for PLHIV to take than others in the market.
Its main component is dolutegravir, a drug that has become number one for those in higher-income nations.
The drug’s development was financed by UNITAID, a global health development organization. Tobert Matiru of UNITAID on the drug said “The introduction of this new regimen, known as TLD, is a major milestone and game-changer for South Africa, which has the highest burden of HIV of any country in the world”
He further added that, “The government has the very ambitious plan of switching the 4.8 million South Africans who are currently on the older regimen of HIV treatment on to this new regimen by 2021, in addition to getting the remaining [roughly] 3 million people who are not currently on HIV treatment on to this regimen by then as well. It’s a massive undertaking to put in place, and is a really welcome move for the people of South Africa.”
Matiru was optimistic that migrating the PLHIV who are already on antiretrovirals (ARVs) to cheaper but effective treatment had the possibility of moving the up to 5 million others to be enrolled onto treatment.
South Africa alone currently accounts for more than 10% of all HIV-related deaths and 15% of new infections globally, according to UNITAID. Only 62% of those living with HIV in South Africa are currently on treatment and fewer than 50% of young South Africans who come forward for HIV care successfully initiate ARV therapy.
According to Dr. Michelle Moorhouse, of Ezintsha, Wits Reproductive Health and HIV Institute in Johannesburg, the introduction of the new drug will have a far-reaching impact on HIV incidence in South Africa as well as the global response.
“We are likely to see a dramatic impact on the rate of new infections,” said Moorhouse. “In fact, moving to DTG could halve the number of new infections in South Africa between now and 2038, especially if we get people on treatment more quickly. And as HIV in South Africa accounts for about 20% of infections globally, this impacts the global infection rate.”
Just 24.5 million of the estimated 37.9 million people living worldwide with HIV are currently on ARVs, said Matiru. “Once South Africa scales up its response to include the 3 million who aren’t currently on treatment, that will help close the global gap.”
Although global HIV infections among adults have dropped by 17% since 2010, the decline is far short of the 60% drop required in 2018 to meet global HIV prevention targets, according to the Global HIV Prevention Coalition. Just 28 countries account for 75% of all new HIV infections globally, according to a report published by the coalition in October – and some of them, including Nigeria and Pakistan, have shown a troubling increase in infections.
A dozen countries have reduced new adult HIV infections by 26% or more since 2010, including South Africa (39%), the Democratic Republic of the Congo (37%), Uganda (36%), and Zimbabwe (28%).
However, in Nigeria, new adult HIV infections increased by 8% from 2010, while in Pakistan new adult HIV infections rose by a staggering 56%.
Tabitha Ha, advocacy manager at StopAids, said: “Despite progress over the past few decades, HIV infection rates are still increasing at alarming rates in places such as Pakistan and South Sudan, and in regions such as eastern Europe.
“This means we are off track in meeting our global goal target to end Aids by 2030. While some countries are stepping up the fight, others are lagging way behind.
“Global prevention efforts need to be ramped up urgently in order to get us back on track and offer us the opportunity to turn the tide. We must collectively increase our financial investment in prevention tools, break down stigma and discrimination, as well as remove the legal and structural barriers that prevent people most likely to be affected with HIV from accessing healthcare.”
Source: The Guardian