Those using most PrEP medications on the market, have to remember to take their medication daily, a greater challenge for what is a preventative medicine.
“Long-acting cabotegravir is a safe and highly effective HIV prevention tool, but isn’t yet available outside study settings,” said Meg Doherty, Director of WHO’s Global HIV, Hepatitis and Sexually Transmitted Infections Programmes.
The drug was approved in the United States last December, and the United Kingdom the following month.
Key populations – including sex workers, men having sex with men, intravenous drug users, people in prisons, transgender individuals, and their sexual partners –accounted for 70 per cent of global HIV infections last year.
Moreover, 4,000 new infections that occurred every day in 2021, were within that group.
As HIV prevention efforts have stalled, the new guidelines were released ahead of the 24th International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2022) – which officially begins on Friday – with 1.5 million new HIV infections last year, the same as in 2020.
“We hope these new guidelines will help accelerate country efforts to start to plan and deliver CAB-LA alongside other HIV prevention options, including oral PrEP and the dapivirine vaginal ring,” said the WHO official.
CAB-LA is an intramuscular injectable, long-acting form of PrEP.
The first two injections are administered four weeks apart, followed thereafter by an injection every eight weeks.
In randomized controlled trials, the antiretroviral was shown to be safe and highly effective among cisgender women, cisgender men who have sex with men, and transgender women who have sex with men.
Together, these landmark studies found that use of CAB-LA resulted in a 79 per cent relative reduction in HIV risk compared with oral PrEP, where adherence to taking daily oral medication was often a challenge, according to WHO.
Long-acting injectable products have also been found to be acceptable and sometimes preferred in studies examining community PrEP preferences.