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ViiV starts trial of HIV-preventing injections for women

Cabotegravir could provide a new way for women to protect themselves

ViiV Healthcare

ViiV Healthcare’s injectable HIV drug cabotegravir could provide a new way for women to protect themselves from HIV, for example if their partner refuses to wear a condom.

The HIV specialist has started recruiting sexually-active women from sub-Saharan Africa women into the HPTN 084 study, which will examine whether injections of the drug given every two months can defend against the spread of the virus as well as daily dosing with Gilead’s oral pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) therapy Truvada (emtricitabine and tenofovir disoproxil).

ViiV - majority owned by GlaxoSmithKline, with Pfizer and Shionogi as shareholders - is planning to enrol 3,200 women aged between 18 and 45 into the study, which will be carried out with the support of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Every week, it is estimated that there are more than 7,000 new infections among women in sub-Saharan Africa, thanks in part to a fierce resistance among men to wear condoms and difficulties in negotiating safe sex.

“In sub-Saharan Africa, women account for more than half of all new HIV infections in adults and there is clearly a public health need for prevention strategies that empower women to protect themselves from HIV,” commented ViiV’s chief scientific and medical officer John Pottage.

The company said women seeking HIV protection “may have privacy and convenience considerations that might make long-acting, injectable PrEP a desirable option”.

The cabotegravir trial is the latest in a series of initiatives aimed to empowering women to protect themselves against HIV and other sexually-transmitted infections. In Malawi for example, the BBC recently reported on a clinical trial of drug-loaded silicon rings that cost $7 and are replaced once a month.

While not entirely protective - it is estimated to reduce cases of HIV by one third - the approach does allow women to take steps to protect themselves discreetly, without the knowledge of their partner, and could have a public health impact in light of the scale of HIV infection in the country.

The dapavirine-laden rings have been developed by the International Partnership for Microbicides (IPM), a nonprofit devoted to the prevention of HIV infections in women.

Last year, ViiV began a complementary study (HPTN 083) in HIV-uninfected men and transgender women who have sex with men.

Article by
Phil Taylor

5th December 2017

From: Research

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