HIV Prevention Injection Hailed As 'Major Breakthrough' for Women in Africa

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A South African university is saying that there may be a “game changer” in an HIV prevention injection for women across sub-Saharah Africa as a trial for the drug seems to yield positive results. Scientists at Johannesburg’s University of the Witwatersrand say the injection could turn "the tide on HIV" on the continent.

The study, called HPTN084 and led by the HIV Prevention Trials Network (HPTN), tested an antiretroviral injection given every two months instead of patients having to take a daily pill like pre-exposure prophylaxis also known as PrEP, All Africa reports.

The study also shows that the new injection, is 89% more effective in women than Truvada, the daily pill previously available. "This is the first time the world has seen such significant HIV prevention result for women," Wits' Dr Sinead Delany-Moretlwe, who headed up the trial, told All Africa.

“Women continue to bear the brunt of the HIV epidemic,” a UN Report on HIV/AIDS in Africa said. “In sub-Saharan Africa, young women are twice as likely to become infected with HIV as their male counterparts. And in sub-Saharan Africa, three out of four new HIV infections among 15–19-year-olds are among young women, and seven out of 10 young women do not have comprehensive knowledge about HIV. Approximately 6900 adolescent girls and young women aged 15–24 years are newly infected with HIV every week around the world.”

Before the injection trials, the only forms of HIV prevention for women and men have been abstinence, condoms or PrEP with Truvada.

The announcement was made last week, which led to Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases in America, who has fought and researched HIV/AIDS throughout his career to say “This is a major, major advance," according to NPR.

"One of the stumbling blocks in our prevention [efforts against HIV] has been the inconsistency or lack of efficacy of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP)  in those who need it the most," Fauci said, according to NPR. "Namely young women, particularly those in southern Africa."

In 2019, an additional 1.7 million people were infected with HIV globally. Roughly one million of them were in Africa.

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