New approved HIV treatment will only be needed six times per year

A new treatment for HIV has been approved for use in the UK, meaning those living with the virus can go from daily pills to injections every other month.

Patient getting medical treatment via injection

In the leadup to World AIDS Day on Wednesday, December 1, British people living with HIV have a new treatment option to consider.

The NHS has just been given the go-ahead to roll out cabotegravir and rilpivirine injections which, together, will fight the virus and make it both undetectable and untransmittable, just as effectively as its tablet counterparts. The injections are only needed six times a year, while tablets have to be taken daily.

“Taking daily pills becomes an emotional burden, a constant reminder that their health is at risk without medication,” executive director of HIV outreach charity NAM aidsmap, Matthew Hodson, told PinkNews.

“For some, who are unable to be open about their need for HIV treatment, it can create considerable obstacles to necessary adherence required for HIV medication to be effective. For many, a switch to injections just six times a year will be a liberation.”

While the injections must be taken every other month, missing pills creates risks for those relying on the medication. Even missing one dose could allow the virus to multiply rapidly and build up resistance to treatments.

“It is important that HIV treatment continues to adapt and innovate to ensure that as many people as possible can benefit,” Hodson went on to say.

“Effective treatment means we can now enjoy the same life expectancy as those without the virus and we can no longer pass HIV on during sex; getting treatment to all people with HIV in a way that supports our circumstances holds the key to ending this epidemic.”

The UK leading HIV activist added that he hopes this development will extend to pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP, a preventative drug that protects people from acquiring HIV.

“Many of the barriers to effective PrEP use are down to the need for daily pills – or the two-one-one on-demand strategy for cis men who can plan their sexual activity,” he explained. “Injectables, implants and even very long-lasting pills are all in the pipeline, and these could have a huge impact on our ability to prevent HIV.”

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