Washington (AFP)

Injecting a drug called cabotegravir every eight weeks helps prevent infection with the AIDS virus, HIV, even more effectively than the daily PrEP tablets that have already revolutionized virus prevention, American Institutes of Health (NIH).

NIH released preliminary results of large clinical trial launched over three years ago in seven countries including the United States, Brazil, Thailand and South Africa with men who have sex with men as well as transgender women, most under the age of 30. These are the groups most at risk from the HIV epidemic. Another trial is underway on women.

Currently, the only approved preventive medication is a tablet called PrEP, for pre-exposure prophylaxis, from the Truvada and Descovy brands in the United States. People without HIV need to take it every day, and see their risk of being infected through unprotected sex reduced by 99%, according to the United States Centers for Disease Prevention (CDC). But the need for daily intake is considered a possible obstacle, hence research on a less restrictive method.

The results released on Monday are based on the monitoring of more than 4,500 people. Half received the bi-monthly injection of cabotegravir (with placebo PrEP tablets), and the other half received a placebo injection (and real PrEP pills). All participants were therefore treated by one method or another.

50 participants were still infected with HIV during the period, but unevenly: 12 in the cabotegravir group, and 38 in the Truvada group.

This translates into an injection efficiency 69% higher than that of Truvada, yet already considered a pillar of prevention policies, especially in the United States where at least 200,000 people at risk take it, according to the Gilead laboratory.

Faced with these very positive results, those responsible for the clinical trial prematurely ended the blind trial so that all participants could benefit from the most effective method, the injection.

"We are very pleased with the results, not only because of the high efficacy of cabotegravir, but also because we have demonstrated high efficacy in a study that adequately represents the populations most disproportionately affected by HIV: MSM (men having sex with black men in the United States, young MSM around the world, transgender women, "said Kimberly Smith, director of research and development at ViiV Healthcare (GSK group).

© 2020 AFP