Anti-HIV injections to be trialled in gay men in Thailand and the Americas

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Large-scale trials of anti-HIV injections are planned to begin within groups of gay men in the Americas and Thailand, Reuters reports.

GlaxoSmithKline’s majority-owned ViiV Healthcare unit, working with U.S. government agencies and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, plans to start a four-year trial of injectable pre-exposure phrophylaxis (PrEP) as soon as next month.

Its experimental drug cabotegravir will be trialled in groups of gay men in Thailand and the Americas, with a second trial beginning next year within groups of African women. Two separate studies evaluating cabotegravir’s performance in combination with another drug for HIV treatment were launched this month.

Following on from the success of HIV prevention drug Truvada – taken once daily in pill form – the injections aim to help those for whom taking regular medicine is difficult or unlikely. Truvada is now being used for PrEP by 80,000-90,000 people in the US.

Anti-HIV injections to be trialled in gay men in Thailand and the Americas

Studies have shown that taking PrEP in pill form can cut the risk of catching HIV by more than 90 percent, but only if the medication is taken daily.

In previous clinical trials, some African women claimed they feared judgment from their communities if they kept anti-HIV medication in the house.

By administering an injection within a clinic environment, the recipients will be offered privacy and will also be ensured appropriate drug levels to keep them safe.

The hope is that an anti-HIV implant will exist in future, similar in size to a contraceptive device, that will sit beneath the skin.

“The more options there are the better and I think for some individuals injections will be great,” said Jean-Michel Molina, professor of infectious diseases at Hospital Saint-Louis in Paris.

“Now that we know antiretrovirals have great potential to prevent HIV infections, it is time to really assess other ways to deliver these drugs.”

Approximately 1.9 million people contract HIV each year and the World Health Organisation has recommended PrEP for all groups at serious risk of infection.