Universal Access to HIV Preventive Drugs Could Reduce Infection Rates in Sub-Saharan Africa

HIV Preventive Drugs

HIV preventive drugs like Truvada have worked wonders in keeping the virus at bay for many individuals. However, the high price of PrEP medicines makes them inaccessible to a lot of people who need them. 

A new study by Catherine Koss and her colleagues at the University of California, San Francisco, shows that universal testing is a promising approach to reducing HIV infections. The researchers stated that if mixed with HIV preventive drugs, they will accelerate reductions. 

The study targets Sub-Saharan Africa, where the number of infections keeps rising. In 2019, there were nearly 60% new HIV cases despite significant gains in testing and treatment. Koss and her colleagues stated that daily oral pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) with tenofovir disoproxil fumarate/emtricitabine are effective treatments. 

They noted that the only setback is the lack of information on new infections among PrEP users, particularly outside of selected risk groups. To find the problem, Koss and her colleagues conducted community-based HIV testing, offering universal access to PrEP in 16 communities.

The test happened under the Sustainable East Africa Research in Community Health (SEARCH) study in rural Kenya and Uganda. They carried out rapid or same-day PrEP service delivery with follow-up visits at facilities or communities-based sites. The research lasted for 144 weeks.

The researchers found that the rate of new infections was higher in women than in men. The results suggest that PrEP may close the new infections gap between both genders. Koss and her colleagues stated that universal access to HIV testing, treatment, and rapid provision of PrEP could reduce HIV incidence in generalized epidemic settings. 

Team member Dr. Kamaya noted that PrEP is highly effective, and they only need systems to make it easier and continuous. Once they have, it would significantly reduce HIV, particularly among women. 

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