The NHS is to start offering people HIV injections every two months to keep the virus at bay.
National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) is offering the antiretroviral drugs cabotegravir and rilpivirine in England and Wales after trials proved they work as effectively as daily tablets.
It is the first long-acting, injectable treatment for adults.
Alex Sparrowhawk, from Manchester, was diagnosed with HIV in 2009 and since then he has been working for an HIV charity called the Terrence Higgins Trust.
He would consider the long-acting injection for HIV, yet he hasn’t decided yet.
“It’s quite a complex issue because currently I take one tablet every day, and it’s easy and works well for me.
“I see my HIV doctor only twice a year and If I was to change my treatment, I would need to visit the clinic six times a year for an injection.
“However, the injectable medication is good news for people with HIV.
“I know people who have to hide their medication because they live in shared accommodation. I believe for them to get the injection instead will be good.
“Some people who are working in shifts might be taking their medication to work because they have to take it at the same time every day.
“Mental health and the well-being of people living with HIV should be considered too.
“The daily tables are a constant reminder about HIV. Hence, if you are in a period when you are suffering from anxiety the injectable might be an alternative.”
Living with HIV
Approximately 100,000 people have HIV in Britain. An estimated 13,000 people in England will be eligible for the treatment, which will replace daily pills.
The treatment is only suitable for those who have already achieved undetectable virus levels in the blood while taking tablets.
HIV is still incurable, yet the virus can be controlled by taking antiretroviral tablets daily.
However, taking tablets every day is inconvenient; many forget to take them, some suffer from pill fatigue or have difficulty swallowing.
Professor Chloe Orkin, an expert in HIV at the Queen Mary University of London, says at a press conference: “It would release people with HIV from the burden of daily oral therapy, and offer them only six treatments per year instead.
Deborah Gold, the chief executive of National Aids Trust tweets: “Innovations that can make it easier for people to stick to their treatment plans.
“It improve the well-being of people living with HIV and bring us one step closer to the goal of ending transmissions by 2030.”
Although HIV is still irremediable, researchers found that patients who had the new treatment could reach a point where the virus particles in their blood were so low those particles could not be transmitted between people.
Dr Sanjay Bhagani, president of the European Aids Clinical Society, shares with the BBC: “[The new treatment] is very welcome indeed.
“Stigma remains a significant issue in the HIV community and taking tablets every day may be difficult for some people.
“[The new medical approach] offers an injectable alternative for many people.
“The data and studies underpinning this recommendation are solid, and real-world experience suggests that patients that start injectable treatments prefer to stay on them.”
It is a huge step forward. Having to take tablets every day can be physically, emotionally and socially burdensome for some people.
This decision reflects the rightful need for people living with HIV to have the freedom to manage their HIV in a way that works best for them, helping them to live their life to the full.
Meindert Boysen, Deputy Chief Executive, NICE, says at a press conference: “The virus can be controlled by modern treatment.”
“However, for some people, having to take daily multi-tablet regimens can be difficult because of drug-related side effects, toxicity, and other psychosocial issues such as stigma or changes in lifestyle.
“We’re pleased to be able to recommend cabotegravir with rilpivirine as a valuable treatment option for people who already have good levels of adherence to daily tablets, but who might prefer an injectable regimen with less frequent dosing.”
Words: Ivan Zhelev | Subbing: Marion Pichardie