Ministry of Health Director of Infectious Diseases Lloyd Mulenga says the country will receive the new ARV injectable called cabotegravir (CAB-LA) in October this year.
Prof. Mulenga, who is also Acting Director General for the National AIDS Council (NAC), says Zambia will this year receive this long-acting ARV which is a new injectable ARV offered for prevention of HIV among people at high risk of acquiring virus through a method of preventing HIV called Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP).
Speaking after the closure of the Country Operational Plan (COP23) Co-Planning Meeting in South Africa, Prof. Mulenga says during the address on the World AIDS Day, President Hakainde Hichilema, through the Minister of Health Ms Sylvia T. Masebo, instructed the Ministry of Health to enhance HIV prevention including accelerating the introduction of the injectable ARVs.
He adds that the planned arrival of the CAB-LA is in response to the presidential directive but also to the urgent need for enhancing prevention.
“Between now and October, there will be a lot of sensitization on the drug and which populations can receive it. People need to know that this drug is not for treatment of HIV but for prevention of HIV. There is another drug combination containing Cabotegravir and another injectable called Rilpivirine which is used for HIV treatment, but this one will not be available this year for people living with HIV.
People who are not at high risk of acquiring HIV do not need to take this CAB-LA,” Prof. Mulenga said.
He says health facilities will also need to be prepared and health workers trained on how to administer these drugs.
He says this national training will commence in April and technical experts from the WHO and other bodies will be available to support the country.
“Since it will be a new drug in our population, we will also institute monitoring how our people will be responding to this drug in terms of side effects- a concept called pharmacovigilance. For now what we know is that the drug has minor side effects like pain from the site of the injection and also a few people may have mild headache.
Those people who may not wish to get the injectable ARV may use other options like the oral ARVs (truvada) for prevention,” he said.
Zambia was picked as one of the five countries in the world by the United States Government to be supported with procurement of a long acting injectable ARV called cabotegravir (CAB-LA) this year.
This is contained in a statement issued by first Secretary for press and public relations at Zambia’s high Commission in south Africa Tamara Nyirenda.