Rwanda is planning to acquire injectable antiretroviral drugs as a way of continuing to intensify the fight against HIV/AIDs in the country.
Mid this year, the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommended the use of long-acting injectable cabotegravir (CAB-LA), as a new drug for pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) for HIV.
The WHO called upon countries "to consider this safe and highly effective prevention option for people at substantial risk of HIV infection."
The New Times has learned that Rwanda is one of the countries negotiating to get access to the new drugs.
According to Dr. Eric Remera, the Director of HIV Surveillance and Research at the Institute of HIV Disease Prevention and Control, Rwanda Biomedical Center (RBC), albeit the country has not had a trial of the drugs there is a plan to have them in the country.
"So far we have not had a trial in Rwanda but as a program, we are planning and negotiating to have them in country," he said.
CAB-LA is an intramuscular injectable, long-acting form of PrEP, with the first 2 injections administered 4 weeks apart, followed thereafter by an injection every 8 weeks.
The WHO says studies found that use of CAB-LA resulted in a 79% relative reduction in HIV risk compared with oral PrEP, where adherence to taking daily oral medication was often a challenge.
"Long-acting injectable products have also been found to be acceptable and sometimes preferred in studies examining community PrEP preferences," read a WHO statement.
Meanwhile, the WHO is also carrying out trials for injectable ARV treatment for infected people.
However, these are not yet concluded.
Dr Simeon Tuyishime, the Director, for HIV/AIDS Care and Treatment at RBC told The New Times that Rwanda will wait for the results of the trials before considering the option of bringing these drugs onboard.
According to the Rwanda Population-Based HIV Impact Assessment (RPHIA), a national household-based survey conducted between October 2018 and March 2019, the prevalence of HIV among adults in Rwanda was 3.0 percent.
This corresponds to approximately 210,200 adults living with HIV in Rwanda with more women (3.7%) than men (2.2%) living with HIV.
Globally, there were 1.5 million new HIV infections in 2021 - the same as 2020.
It is estimated that there were 4000 new infections every day in 2021, with key populations (sex workers, men who have sex with men, people who inject drugs, people in prisons and transgender people) and their sexual partners accounting for 70 percent of HIV infections globally.