Zambia has received her first tranche of injectable ARVs for prevention of HIV known as Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis or PrEP.
Speaking during a media briefing this morning, Minister of Health Sylvia Masebo said these injectable ARVs for PrEP have generously been donated by the people of the United States.
She said this invaluable contribution of this long-acting injectable ARV called CABOTEGRAVIR LONG-ACTING or CAB-LA for PrEP marks a significant milestone in Government’s ongoing efforts to combat the HIV epidemic in our nation.
“The journey to conquer HIV/AIDS has been marked by immense dedication, pioneering research, innovation, and relentless advocacy. Despite our collective efforts, we continue to face significant hurdles in achieving our goal of an HIV-free world. These challenges serve as stark reminders of the urgency and importance of the work we do.”
“Throughout our region and across the globe, communities continue to grapple with the devastating impact of HIV/AIDS. It is a plain reality that millions of individuals are newly infected with the virus every year. Behind these statistics lie human stories of suffering, resilience, and hope. This therefore urges us to re-double our efforts and explore innovative solutions like injectable ARVs and this promises to revolutionize HIV prevention.” Ms. Masebo said
And Ms. Masebo said the introduction of this injectable ARV as a novel PrEP option, presents an exciting opportunity to expand the arsenal against HIV transmission.
She said Government’s commitment to tackling the high incidence of HIV remains unwavering, adding that Government has since embarked on a ground-breaking approach aimed at curbing the transmission rates of HIV.
The Minister said this initial distribution of injectable PrEP vials will be initially strategically allocated to key healthcare facilities, including the University Teaching Hospital Lusaka in Lusaka, the Mazabuka DREAMs Center in the Southern Province, Mwanjuni in the Central Province, and the Central Police Clinic in Kitwe.
She added that this thoughtful distribution ensures that this groundbreaking preventive measure reaches those in need across our diverse regions.
“This Injectable PrEP, stands as a safe and effective tool in our arsenal against HIV. It involves the first two injections administered a month apart, followed by subsequent injections every 2 months. This provides clients with two months of HIV protection between doses. This not only simplifies the prevention process but also addresses challenges faced by certain populations, such as women and girls in Zambia. They encounter barriers in adhering to daily oral PrEP due to various socio-economic factors.”
“We are particularly grateful to the US government for selecting Zambia as one of the five nations to receive financial assistance for the purchase of these injectable ARVs. This gesture, aligning with our national strategy, enables us to supporting between 2,000 to 4,000 individuals in receiving CAB-LA as a prevention method for HIV.” the Minister said
To this effect, Ms. Masebo said Government has committed resources worth USD 2,001,713 to procure 24,873 doses of this injectable PrEP (CAB-LA).
“Our technical teams from the Ministry of Health and the Zambia Medicines and Medical Supplies Agency (ZAMMSA) have already started engagements with the only single manufacturer, VIIV.” She said
And Ms. Masebo has urged technical teams to fast track such procurement processes and get the commodity in a timely manner, at a right price and in good quality.
She further urged the US government and PEPFAR in particular, the WHO including Africa CDC to raise voices towards technology transfer from the current single manufacturer, VIIV, to generic manufacturers including local manufacturers in Zambia and our continent.
The Minister added that this will overtime translate to cheaper commodities which will be easier and faster to acquire for us on the African continent, where a third of the world’s HIV burden is.
“Alongside receiving this donation, it is with great pleasure and a profound sense of purpose that I stand before you to launch two strategic documents. These are 1) the Implementation Plan for the Introduction of Long-Acting Injectable Cabotegravir (CAB-LA) for HIV Prevention, and 2) the new National Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) and Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP) guidelines.”
“In the implementation plan, you will find a meticulous roadmap outlining our systematic approach to implementing CAB-LA PrEP. This is with unwavering attention to its efficacy, safety, acceptability, and the challenges we may encounter along the way. This plan stands as a testament to the dedication and resilience of our healthcare professionals and frontline workers. They have tirelessly championed the successful implementation of injectable PrEP in Zambia and the expansion of access to public health facilities. The plan is not merely a document; it is a reflection of our unwavering commitment to combat HIV and enhance the overall health outcomes of our beloved nation. “
“Acknowledging the challenges posed by HIV resistance to ARVs, we pledge to exercise utmost diligence in devising strategies to mitigate such risks. Iam therefore delighted that through USAID support via the MOSAIC Project, we will be critically following the development of resistance to PrEP ARVs among those individuals that may turn HIV positive while on PrEP. This will help us understand on who is at risk of developing breakthrough HIV infections and resistance to PrEP ARVs. Further, this will help us devise interventions to halt the spread of resistance to ARVs.” She said.