There are at least 1.5 million people in Kenya living with HIV. According to the Kenyan Health Ministry, about a million HIV Positive Kenyans are receiving ART (antiretroviral therapy).
The drug is a combination of Cabotegravir and Rilpivirine, an Integrase strand transfer inhibitor (INSTI) and a non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitor (NNRTI) respectively and is administered every two months to adult patients.
Manufactured by ViiV Healthcare which is owned by GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), with Pfizer and Shionogi Limited as shareholders, the pair are packaged together to treat HIV/AIDS.
Most HIV treatments currently consist of taking three different drugs orally every day, often including side effects and routine trips to refill the medications. The treatment’s efficacy declines for individuals who do not or cannot take all three daily.
Antiretroviral therapy has already been approved in the UK and in the US but African specialists will monitor patients for two years to assess the therapy’s performance.
The Aga Khan University Hospital and principal investigator of the study says it is necessary to conduct separate trials even though the World Health Organization (WHO) licensed the use of both ARVs in 2020.
However, the studies that lead to WHO’s licensing were conducted in the United States, Europe and Asia, regions with socioeconomic backgrounds and healthcare infrastructure that greatly differ from Africa.
“The trial setting [in Europe, America, and Asia] was overly regulated, with intense laboratory testing, which is not the case in the public health sector in Africa. The findings, therefore, although positive, cannot be generalized to a public health setting in Africa,” according to a statement by Aga Khan University.
The trial is being conducted on 512 participants total in eight sites across Kenya (160 patients), Uganda (202 patients) and South Africa (150 patients).
With the implementation of this treatment, pending a successful trial, the amount of the HIV virus can be reduced to very low levels and may become undetectable, keeping the individual’s immune system working to prevent further illness, according to the CDC.