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Promising breakthroughs in HIV prevention

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A once-monthly pill intake has shown promising results in the quest to prevent HIV infections, scientists have said. Islatravir is the first oral drug in phase three development for HIV prevention and treatment.

At the ongoing virtual session of the HIV research for prevention conference, scientists expressed optimism that the drug will appeal to persons at risk of the virus.

“COVID-19 has disrupted research around the world, so it’s especially exciting to see this new progress,” President of the International Aid Society, Adeeba Kamarulzaman said. She added that “These research advances on options like broadly neutralizing antibodies and injectable PrEP could help significantly strengthen our HIV prevention toolkit.”

''Many of the same gains that we talk about for prevention are for treatment, and that many people struggle to take a pill a day and this is a way that people can get access to treatment benefits without potentially having to navigate daily pill taking, which when it’s lifelong can be fairly burdensome’’, Sinead Delany-Moretlwe of the University of the Witwatersrand, South African said.

It was also revealed that currently there’s little prospects of reaching global targets for HIV/AIDS elimination in Africa by 2030. The scientists for called for funding and the expansion of testing as well as treatment on the continent.

''We found that HIV testing rates are growing very slowly and condom use are generally not increasing. It could be difficult to meet the UNAIDS testing targets or to achieve the behavioral change goals. This means that previous modeling studies probably overestimated the ability of achieving HIV elimination goals in Africa'', said Phuong Nguyen of the St. Luke’s International university in Tokyo, Japan.

The scientists noted that the intake of PrEP has increased globally, but falls short of UNAIDS target. Sub-Saharan Africa expanded PrEP access from over 4,154 initiations in 2016 to almost 290,981 by mid-2020.