- The new injections may make taking PrEP easier and they are even better at stopping HIV.
Researchers have found an injectable form of PrEP is even more effective than PrEP tablets at stopping HIV.
Daily or on-demand PrEP tablets are already a highly effective way of preventing people getting HIV. It has contributed to dramatic falls in people becoming HIV positive.
However, HIV experts hope the new injections may help people who find it hard to take daily pills. This may include people who have to be discrete about being on PrEP so can’t easily have the pills lying around at home.
The clinical trial studied 4,570 men and trans women who have sex with men. They came from Argentina, Brazil, Peru, South Africa, Thailand, the United States.
For three years they either took the current daily PrEP pills or had an injection of the drug Cabotegravir every eight weeks.
But researchers found that those having the injections were even better protected from HIV. Just 0.38% of them contracted the virus. That’s compared to 1.21% of people taking the PrEP pills.
HIV campaigners have welcomed the results of the study this week.
In the UK, a spokesperson for National AIDS Trust told GSN the results were ‘obviously promising’. But he warned the new preventative drug will face ‘more medical checks and protocols before it can be rolled out’.
Meanwhile MPact Global Action for Gay Men’s Health and Rights in New York described the new drug as an ‘exciting alternative’.
Dr George Ayala, executive director of MPact, said: ‘PrEP has been one of the most important developments in the global HIV response. Gay men and other men who have sex with men are disproportionately impacted by HIV.
‘This has been true since the beginning of the [HIV] pandemic.
‘Now with long-acting injectable PrEP, gay men and trans women can choose from a range of accessible, sex-positive, user-friendly and flexible HIV prevention options, critical to curbing new HIV infections in our communities.’
Two-thirds of the participants in the research trial were under the age of 30 and 12% were transgender women. And 50% of study participants in the US were Black or African American.
That’s significant because black men who have gay sex made up 26% of all new HIV diagnoses in 2018.
Micheal Ighodaro is a board member of Global Black Gay Men Connect in the US. He said:
‘Half of all black gay men are projected to acquire HIV in their lifetime. Longstanding HIV-related disparities shouldered by black gay men and other gay men of color are the result of persistent racism, homophobia, and sexual stigma that continue to largely go unaddressed.’
His organization is joining MPact in calling for minorities, gay men and trans women to have a seat at the table as new PrEP options become available.
Boosting efforts to end HIV by 2030
The potential new version of PrEP comes as HIV campaigners say it may be possible to end new HIV transmissions by 2030.
Meanwhile, doctors in the UK say the coronavirus pandemic has created a once in a lifetime opportunity to slash HIV and STI rates. They are calling for gay and bi men to take a postal HIV and STI test before lockdown is over.
You can find out more about sex, living with HIV, hook-ups and PrEP during the COVID-19 pandemic here.