Zimbabwe’s AIDS-related deaths down by 63 per cent

United Nations health agency, UNITAID has announced the roll out of the first injection that offers long-lasting protection against HIV in South Africa and Brazil.

The injection, according to the body which is working to provide innovations to prevent, diagnose and treat tuberculosis, malaria, and HIV/AIDS and its deadly co-infections, is an alternative to daily medication currently being .

Hosted by the World Health Organization (WHO), UNITAID announced the ground-breaking development on Friday with the hope that it will boost HIV prevention worldwide.

Developed by ViiV Healthcare, a joint venture pharmaceutical company by Pfizer and GlaxoSmithKline that specializes in the development of therapies for HIV infection, and approved by the US health authority, the injection, whose active ingredient is cabotegravir,  offers two months of protection against HIV.

Like other HIV treatments, the anti-retroviral medication works by stopping the virus from replicating in the body, effectively reducing the viral load.

Although the existing Oral Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (oral PrEP) also prevent HIV in 99 per cent of cases, uptake has been slow leading to missed targets in efforts to reduce new infections.

This is often because people with HIV fear stigma, discrimination or intimate partner violence if they take the pill every day, said UNITAID spokesperson Herve Verhoosel.

In Brazil, UNITAID says it is supporting long-acting cabotegravir injections among transgender communities, whereas in South Africa, the target population is adolescent girls and young women, who are infected at a disproportionately high rate.

According to UNITAID, six in seven new HIV infections in adolescents occur among girls in Sub-Saharan Africa, just as young women in the region are twice as likely to be living with HIV as their male peers.

Meanwhile, UNAIDS has congratulate Zimbabwe for making phenomenal progress in HIV control by decriminalizing the transmission.

UNAIDS Executive Director, Winnie Byanyima, while making reference to the progress made in the country said, “Public health goals are not served by denying people their individual rights and I commend Zimbabwe for taking this hugely important step.

“This decision strengthens the HIV response in Zimbabwe by reducing the stigma and discrimination that too often prevents vulnerable groups of people from receiving HIV prevention, care and treatment services.”

Ms. Byanyima’s comments followed the Zimbabwean Parliament’s decision to repeal section 79 of the Criminal Law Code on HIV transmission.

In its place President Emmerson Mnangagwa is expected to sign into law a new marriage bill adopted by Parliament.

It is estimated that 1.2 million of the 1.3 million people living with HIV in Zimbabwe are now on life-saving medicines. This is as AIDS-related deaths have decreased in the country by 63 per cent since 2010, with new HIV infections down by 66 per cent over the same period.

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