BONELA Hails Announcement of New HIV Prophylaxis Breakthrough

15 July 2011:
BONELA Hails Announcement of New HIV Prophylaxis Breakthrough

The Botswana Network on Ethics, Law and HIV/AIDS (BONELA) is pleased with the announcement of an HIV prevention breakthrough via new data from studies in Kenya, Uganda and Botswana that confirm the major role of antiretroviral medicine in preventing heterosexual HIV transmission.

According to the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), results announced on the 13th of July 2011 from two studies, reveal that a daily antiretroviral tablet taken by people who are not HIV positive can reduce their risk of acquiring HIV by up to 73%. Daily intake of both tenofovir and tenofovir/emtricitabine as preventive medicine (PrEP – pre-exposure prophylaxis) can prevent heterosexual transmission of HIV from men to women and from women to men.

The TDF2 trial, conducted by the United States Centers for Disease Control, followed 1200 men and women in Botswana who received either a once-daily tenofovir/emtricitabine tablet or a placebo pill. The antiretroviral tablet reduced the risk of acquiring HIV infection by roughly 63% overall in the study population of uninfected heterosexual men and women.

BONELA is particularly pleased with the results of the study as it will encourage more people to get tested for HIV, discuss HIV prevention options with their partners and access essential HIV services. It is BONELA’s hope that this will go a long way in reducing stigma and discrimination targeted at people living with HIV/AIDS, which has been a perpetual barrier in accessing prevention services.

A UNAIDS press statement notes that “the medicines are available generically in many countries at prices as low as US$ 0.25 per tablet. In November 2010, the iPrEx trial among men who have sex with men in six countries reported a 44% reduction in HIV transmission among those who took a daily tenofovir/emtricitabine tablet.” 

“Effective new HIV prevention tools are urgently needed, and these studies could have enormous impact in preventing heterosexual transmission,” said Dr Margaret Chan, WHO’s Director-General. “WHO will be working with countries to use the new findings to protect more men and women from HIV infection.” 

These findings are an impetus to accelerating Botswana’s goal of achieving zero new HIV infections by the year 2016.