About 3.2 million Nigerians live with HIV/AIDS and take daily medicines to control the virus and keep AIDS away. A new study has suggested that HIV patients could soon be offered long-lasting injections to control the killer virus instead of drugs.
The results from a landmark trial show the monthly injection is as effective as the daily cocktail of pills patients currently take.
HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) is an incurable sexually-transmitted disease that attacks the immune system. If untreated, it completely destroys the immune system.
HIV is a virus that damages the cells in the immune system and weakens the ability to fight infections and disease.
Without treatment, HIV can turn into AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome), which is a syndrome (or, a set of symptoms) not a virus.
MailOnline reports that experts claim replacing the daily regimen of three or more antiretroviral (ART) pills with a jab will improve compliance.
The year-long Phase III trial – the final hurdle faced before treatments can be licensed – was carried out by an Irish drug firm and involved HIV patients from 13 countries.
The injection – which has to be administered by a nurse or doctors at present – contains two ART drugs, cabotegravir and rilpirivine.
Nearly 620 patients with suppressed HIV from 13 countries were given a three-pill standard treatment, before switching to the monthly jab.
ViiV Healthcare, the pharmaceutical firm behind the trial, today claimed the injection met its primary goal of long-term viral suppression.
Effectiveness at keeping HIV suppressed was similar between the jab and the three-pill-a-day treatment over a period of 48 weeks.
Dr John Pottage, chief scientific and medical officer at ViiV Healthcare, suggested future versions of the jab could be self-injected.
He said: ‘This novel approach is another step towards potentially reducing the treatment burden for people living with HIV.’
The long-acting injection ‘may offer an alternative’ to daily pills for patients whose HIV is already suppressed, Dr Pottage added.
He said, if the jab was to be approved, HIV treatment would be changed ‘from 365 dosing days per year to just 12’.
Medical advances mean once a patient’s HIV is deemed undetectable, they can even have unprotected sex without fear of passing it on.
ViiV Healthcare, based in Brentford, is owned by drug companies GlaxoSmithKline, Pfizer and Shionogi and specialises in HIV treatment. It is developing the HIV jab in collaboration with Janssen Sciences Ireland, part of the Johnson & Johnson family of drug and consumer product companies.