Uganda has begun trials of injectable HIV drugs, cabotegravir and rilpivirine. Researchers and people living with HIV say the trial is likely to end pill fatigue, combat stigma, improve adherence, and ensure patients are getting the right dosage.
These two drugs were used in pill form. The World Health Organization licensed their use as injectables last year.
Although the two injectables have already been tested in Europe and North America, this will be the first time they have been tested in an African population for efficacy and safety in an African health care system.
Uganda is one of three African countries, along with Kenya and South Africa, to receive WHO approval for testing. However, Kenya and South Africa have yet to receive approvals for testing, which are expected by the end of the year.
Uganda and Kenya will each have three research centers and two in South Africa, with a total of 512 to 202 participants from Uganda, 160 from Kenya and 150 from South Africa.
Dr. Ivan Mambule, lead investigator for the Joint Clinical Research Center project, says participants will need one injection every two months.
“We are going to select participants who are already on ART. [anti-retroviral treatment] and are stable on ART. And we will randomly distribute them to either continue with the usual treatment, that is, take the pills they were taking, or switch them to this injectable drug. “A shot in the buttock,” he said.
In Uganda, 1.4 million people are living with HIV / AIDS. Barbara Kemigisa, living with HIV and the founder of the Pill Power Foundation, which works with rural women, says injecting drugs will increase adherence to treatment and get people at the right dosage.
“One of the reasons that affects adherence is that people have to hide their medications. In the village, people hide medicines on the roof of the kitchen, in trees, in bushes, in children’s shoes … If someone wraps medicine in five plastic bags, digs a hole in the garden and stores medicine there, “If someone takes this medicine, it is no longer a medicine, it is a poison, ”notes Kemigisa.
Nicholas Nivagaba, who has worked with young people living with HIV, applauds the trial, saying it will reduce pills and help fight stigma.
“Young people think they have to take a lot of pills. Those on the first line will have to take one tablet a day. There are those who are on the second line and they have to take more than one pill and they have to take it in the morning and in the evening. And of course, this requires you to have a truly balanced diet, which is indeed a challenge for most young people, especially from vulnerable communities, ”he says.
According to WHO, 25.7 million people in Africa are living with HIV. Since only pills are currently available to combat this scourge, this injectable drug could provide relief for people living with HIV / AIDS.