A GLIMMER of hope shines in the fight against HIV in Zambia with the introduction of long-acting injectable Cabotegravir (CAB-LA), the first injectable PrEP programme in Africa.
This innovative tool marks a significant step towards reducing HIV transmission, particularly among high-risk populations like sex workers.
The drug is the initial installment of injectable Antiretroviral Drugs (ARVs) designed for preventing HIV, specifically known as Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis or PrEP.
PrEP involves taking medication before potential exposure to the virus to reduce the risk of infection.
Health Minister Sylvia Masebo, on Friday announced that Zambia became the first African Country to offer long acting injectable PrEP for HIV.
This was after Government with support from the United State’s President’s Emergency Plan for Aids Relief (PEPFAR) made the injections possible with a consignment of 15,000 vials of drugs already received in the country.
Sex workers in Lusaka’s Kabwata area lauded the initiative, highlighting the inherent risks associated with their profession.
The ability to receive two months of HIV protection through a single injection empowers them to work safer, knowing they’re less susceptible to the virus.
Sex workers, who spoke on conditions of anonymity to Kalemba had this to say; “Our Job is very risky, we interact with different clients who do not know…their health status.
“These injections for us mean that we can continue with our business while knowing that we are safe for the period that it is active,” they disclosed.
The sex workers revealed that some of their clients refuse to use protection most of the time.
Therefore, this development can potentially break the cycle of transmission within this vulnerable community.
While sex workers were among the first to celebrate the news, the impact of injectable PrEP extends far beyond.
Parents like Johns Mwamba recognized the value of this intervention in protecting young people who might engage in early sexual activity.
To ensure maximum impact, the Ministry of Health is strategically distributing the injections at key locations like University Teaching Hospitals and health posts in high-risk areas.
Accessibility has been restricted to individuals above 16 years old further removing promoting responsible sexual health choices.
By Buumba Mwitumwa
Kalemba February 12, 2024