National Aids Commission (NAC) has unveiled plans to introduce injectable pre- exposure prophylaxis (Prep) as an intervention to help fight the spread of HIV, the virus that causes Aids.
Speaking on Tuesday in Lilongwe when the commission appeared before the parliamentary budget cluster of Health and HIV and Aids, NAC acting chief executive officer Andrew Gonani said plans to introduce the injectable Prep are at an advanced stage.
He said the intervention, which will target populations that are at high risk of contracting the disease, will be funded by the United States President’s Emergency Plan for Aids Relief (Pepfar) in its initial stage.
“Pepfar has committed to procure 12 000 doses for a start at a cost of $2 000 [about 2.07 million] per person per year,” said Gonani.
The injectables, which users will receive once in two months to prevent infection, will replace Prep pills that people take daily.
Said Gonani: “It has been found that there are difficulties in adhering to taking the pill every day and that makes one exposed to HIV and Aids.
“The solution now is injection. Western countries and a number of African countries have started introducing the same that people get injected once every two months to prevent high risk people from catching HIV.”
On how NAC intends to sustain the measure considering the cost involved, he said there is a campaign to have the price reduced and once that is done, government would be able to mobilise resources to procure the doses.
“Fortunately, our partner Pepfar has promised that they would initially fund the injectable Prep for the country so that we can commence giving to about 12 000 high risk people, hopefully by mid this year,” Gonani said.
He also expressed optimism that with various interventionS being carried out in the fight against HIV and Aids, the country will reduce new HIV infections from the current 15 000 cases per year to less than 11 000 by 2025 and further down to 2 000 per year by 2030.
The interventions NAC is implementing in the HIV and Aids fight include HIV and Aids prevention campaigns, anti-retroviral therapy (ART), voluntary medical male circumcision, and prevention of mother to child transmission.
New infections were at 33 000 cases annually in 2019 but are now down to 15 000 per year, according to NAC.
Parliamentary Committee on Health chairperson Mathews Ngwale called on NAC to embark on more programmes that target the youth, saying more young people are involved in sexual activities that put their lives at risk.
He also urged NAC to concentrate in rural areas where people do not have proper access to information and easy access to HIV and Aids services.
In the HIV and Aids fight, the goal is to end Aids as a public health threat in Malawi by 2030. According to records, as of December 2022, 95 percent of the people living with HIV had been diagnosed and 97 percent of those had been put on ART, leading to a viral load suppression rate of 94 percent.