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Zimbabweans can now get injectable ARV drug (CAB-LA) for HIV-negative people

Zimbabwe has introduced Cabotegravir long-acting (CAB-LA), an injectable pre-exposure prophylaxis drug, to add to the HIV prevention regime in the country.

The drug is an antiretroviral (ARV) designed to suppress any infection as it occurs. It is administered to HIV-negative people who have a high risk of becoming infected with the virus.

CAB-LA is the third pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) product to be introduced in demonstration sites under a study for catalysing access to new prevention products to stop HIV (CATALYST). The other two are the dapivirine ring and oral PrEP as HIV prevention choices for women.

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The Herald reported the HIV prevention clinical officer in the Ministry of Health and Child Care’s AIDS and TB Programme, Dr Idah Moyo, as saying Zimbabweans could now access the injectable PrEP at the 15 demonstration sites.

She was speaking at a health communicators forum in Harare on Wednesday, 10 April. Said Moyo:

CAB-LA is a long-term injection for pre-exposure prophylaxis that is meant to prevent the acquisition of HIV for people who are HIV-negative and are at substantial risk of acquiring HIV.

Since it is meant to prevent HIV in people who are at substantial risk, this intervention will be implemented in the demonstration sites which means we will get learning insights from those sites and that will inform the country in the rollout of the CAB-LA in the whole country.

Moyo emphasized that healthcare providers should empower clients visiting the sites with knowledge.

This knowledge enables them to make informed choices from the available PrEP products.

Clients are encouraged to select a relevant and appropriate method based on their individual needs, preferences, and lifestyles.

The Medicines Control Authority of Zimbabwe (MCAZ) approved the use of the dapivirine ring in 2021.

Then in 2022, MCAZ approved CAB-LA, making Zimbabwe the first country in Sub-Saharan Africa to approve the product.

Moyo asserted that CAB-LA will be used together with other prevention methods like condoms as it does not protect anyone from contracting STIs and getting pregnant. She said:

CAB-LA is an ARV which reduces the ability of HIV to replicate itself. Whilst research findings are there, the country still wants to learn more through the demonstration projects, so the learning will inform the rollout.

The healthcare providers in these 15 selected sites have been capacitated on CAB-LA so that after the implementation and demonstration projects, we learn from those to facilitate the rollout in the country. The injection is only administered by clinicians.

Eligible individuals to access PrEP serodiscordant couples (where one partner is HIV negative), adolescent girls and young women, and pregnant and lactating women in relationships with men whose status is unknown, are HIV positive or have an unsuppressed viral load.

PrEP is also available for people who use and inject drugs, key populations like sex workers, high-risk men, and the transgender among others.

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