KENYA – Kenya has been urged to adopt the new World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines for administration of the novel potentially game-changing drug as a pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) for HIV in global efforts to reduce the risk of HIV infection.

Taita Taveta County Government in Kenya has also launched the HIV Action Plan 2020-2025 to bolster the access to Universal Health Coverage (UHC) for HIV victims in the spheres of prevention, treatment, care and support at health institutions as well as at homes.

In addition, African nations have been encouraged to adopt the new guidelines by World Health Organization for the use of long-acting injectable cabotegravir (CAB-LA) as pre-exposure prophylaxis for HIV and as part of a comprehensive approach to prevent the virus from spreading.

The World Health Organization published the key guidelines on HIV prevention ahead of the 24th International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2022) to support countries as they plan for CAB-LA introduction as part of a comprehensive approach to HIV prevention.

The guidelines highlight critical research gaps, including issues relating to HIV drug resistance, HIV testing, service delivery models, resource requirements, safety in pregnancy and breastfeeding, and provision of CAB-LA in geographies and for populations not included in the trials.

The new guidelines will facilitate urgently needed operational research as well as help accelerate country efforts to start to plan and deliver CAB-LA alongside other HIV prevention options such as oral PrEP and the dapivirine vaginal ring.

The CAB-LA works like other HIV treatments by stopping the virus from replicating in the body hence effectively reducing the viral load. Moreover, viral suppression helps prevent transmission to others through sex, needle sharing as well as from mother to child during pregnancy, birth and breastfeeding.

CAB-LA has been found to be safe and highly effective among cisgender women, cisgender men who have sex with men, and transgender women who have sex with men in two randomized controlled trials, HPTN 083 and HPTN 084.

The pre-exposure prophylaxis for HIV and the new PrEP guidelines have been introduced at a critical moment when HIV prevention efforts have stalled with 1.5 million new HIV infections in 2021 specifically there were 4000 new infections every day in 2021.

WHO cautioned that key populations including sex workers, men who have sex with men, people who inject drugs, people in prisons and transgender people along with their sexual partners account for 70 per cent of HIV infections globally.

Director of WHO’s Global HIV, Hepatitis and Sexually Transmitted Infections Programmes Dr Meg Doherty said the long-acting cabotegravir is a safe and highly effective HIV prevention tool for people at substantial risk of HIV infection but it’s not yet available outside study settings.

In addition, WHO will continue to support evidence-based strategies to increase PrEP access and uptake including through the adoption of CAB-LA as well as support countries and partners to include CAB-LA safely and effectively in HIV prevention programmes.

WHO is collaborating with UNITAID and other partners to develop implementation science projects to answer outstanding safety issues, implementation challenges and understand people’s preferences for CAB-LA among other HIV prevention choices.

Furthermore, WHO is closely working with countries, communities and donors to support the inclusion of CAB-LA in their programmes and to catalyze implementation science and monitoring of programmes so that CAB-LA can be implemented, safely and effectively for significant impact.

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