HIV drug a healthy find

The injectable HIV drug that has been unveiled is a major health breakthrough that should bring about a lot of relief globally. The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the twice-a-year injections and tablets for treating HIV in adults with multi-drug-resistance infections. This is good news, indeed, and a big stride in the war against the killer virus.

The biggest hitch, however, is its humongous cost, which is likely to hamper access to it by the majority of poor populations in most countries. It will cost $42,250 (Sh5.1 million) for the two shots with users required to raise another $39,000 (Sh4.7 million) a year for maintenance shots. Now that is a tall order, especially in poor nations. A similar drug, which the FDA approved in 2021, costs an equivalent of Sh4.9 million a year.

At this rate, this could just remain a pipe dream or simply just good news that will not yield the anticipated success. If it could be made more widely available, Sunlenca (lenacapavir), will be a game changer. The HIV epidemic has ravaged the world for several decades and its end must be pursued.

With no cure yet, helping HIV patients to live longer, healthier lives is a goal that health authorities and governments must strive to achieve. Nearly 1.5 million Kenyans are HIV-seropositive, 1.1 million are on antiretroviral therapy (ART) and the majority are unaware of their drug-resistance status. This is a reason for worry as, for the first time in 10 years, HIV infection has increased. According to the “2022 World Aids” report, Aids cases rose by more than 2,000 cases to 34,540 last year.

There is a need for more cooperation between countries and international organisations, as happened during the Covid-19 pandemic, to allow a patent waiver to ease the development of more HIV drugs as well. The pitch for more affordable drugs to eradicate the virus in our midst must be stepped up.

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