Govt says truvada HIV prevention drug already in Zambia

The Zambian government has welcomed the usage of the first ever daily pill that is said to help prevent HIV transmission.

The drug was recently approved by the United States (US) health regulators for use by healthy adults who are at risk of getting the virus that causes AIDS.

Deputy Minister of Health Patrick Chikusu said the newly approved drug, known as Truvada and made by Gilead Sciences in California, is already on the Zambian market.

Dr. Chikusu said the news that the drug has finally been approved is welcome because it has proved to be one of the interventions in preventing the transmission of the virus which causes AIDS.

In the US and other western countries, Truvada has been on the market since 2004 and was approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for a new use as a tool to help ward off HIV, in combination with safe sex and regular testing.

The pill, as pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), has been hailed by some AIDS experts as a potent new tool against Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) while other health care providers are concerned that it could encourage risky sex behaviour.

But Dr. Chikusu argued that the drug is perfect for use provided there is adherence to prescription in addition to avoiding risky behaviours.

The AIDS Healthcare Foundation described the approval of the drug as reckless because the FDA recommendations do not require a negative HIV test prior to use.

In addition, the treatment is estimated to cost around $14,000 per year, making it too expensive for many people to afford.

The FDA said Truvada should be used as “part of a comprehensive HIV prevention strategy that includes other prevention methods, such as safe sex practices, risk reduction counseling, and regular HIV testing.”

Truvada was previously approved as a treatment for people infected with HIV and to be used in combination with other antiretroviral drugs.

The decision by the FDA followed the advice of an independent panel in May this year that supported Truvada for prevention in uninfected people after clinical trials showed that it could lower the risk of HIV in gay men and heterosexual couples.

One study of men, who were sexually active with other men but were not infected with the virus that causes AIDS, found 44 per cent fewer infections in those taking Truvada versus a placebo.

Those in the study who took the drug regularly had almost 73 per cent fewer infections.

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