RWANDA – The Ministry of Health is looking to long-acting HIV jabs to solve compliance issues among patients.

MoH said that the impending long-acting drugs for HIV/AIDS are a good development that may solve the challenges related to poor compliance to the daily pill among some patients, especially the youth.

The treatment is a medication for HIV that is taken by injection and used less frequently than daily.

Such medicines are seen as the next evolutionary step in medics’ efforts to find new ways to simplify HIV treatment.

So far, Cabotegravir stands out as the most prominent long-acting treatment for HIV, and it has already been approved in some countries. It is administered intramuscularly at monthly or two-month intervals.

Speaking in a press conference, Dr Sabin Nsanzimana, Minister of Health, said long-lasting HIV treatment is a good solution for patients, especially those who have shown poor adherence to the daily pill.

“If instead of having a daily pill you can have an injection in January and another in July, for example, that will be a good solution to compliance. This is not a dream; it is something we see coming soon,” he said.

Nsanzimana noted that young people are among those who do not adhere well to their medication routines, and this poses a risk of developing resistance to the current medicines.

“Young people, especially adolescents, have a much higher infection incidence in Africa, yet their compliance to medicine is not the best,” he said.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), antiviral drug resistance is an increasing concern in immunocompromised patient populations, where ongoing viral replication and prolonged drug exposure lead to the selection of resistant strains.

One of the causes of drug resistance is when medicines are taken incorrectly, and as a result, their effectiveness is compromised, leading to illness, the spread of disease, and death.

According to the Rwanda Population-Based HIV Impact Assessment (RPHIA), a national household-based survey conducted between October 2018 and March 2019, the prevalence of HIV among adults in Rwanda was 3.0 per cent.

This corresponds to approximately 210,200 adults living with HIV in Rwanda with more women (3.7%) than men (2.2%) living with the virus.

Globally, there were 1.5 million new HIV infections in 2021 – the same as in 2020.

It is estimated that 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 per cent of HIV infections globally.

In July 2022, WHO released guidelines for the use of Cabotegravir for HIV, calling it a safe and highly effective prevention option for people at substantial risk of HIV infection. 

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