Optimism in fight against the virus as Wits Reproductive Health and HIV Research Institute announces pivotal trial results
The trial spearheaded by the HIV Prevention Trial Network (HPTN), compared cabotegravir - a long-acting antiretroviral administered as a two-monthly injection with the orally administered combination of tenofovir and emtricitabine in an attempt to prevent infections. Called HPTN 804, the pivotal trial found the cabotegravir injection to be 89% more effective at preventing HIV infection in women when compared to the control arm.
With women disproportionally bearing the HIV infection burden across sub-Saharan Africa and accounting for more than half of new infections, the results are seen as a breakthrough for HIV prevention in women across the continent. Though the oral regimen was previously found to be almost 100% effective at preventing infections if taken daily, the stigma surrounding HIV serves as an impediment to compliance with the daily dosing, thus making a long-acting injectable a worthwhile alternative.
The trial enrolled 3,223 HIV negative women across South Africa, Botswana, Uganda, eSwatini, Malawi, Kenya and Zimbabwe. Over a two-year period, only 38 women participating contracted the virus. Of these, only four were in the cabotegravir arm while the remaining 34 were in the tenofovir + emtricitabine control arm. The figures suggest a 0.21% rate of new infections in the injectable arm - a remarkable finding in comparison to the 1.79% rate for the oral arm.