Zambia launches new HIV drug

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By Jeff Kapembwa

Lusaka - Zambia has launched Tenofovir Alafenamide (TAF), a new HIV single tablet drug which improves viral load in patients, including children weighing 25 kilogrammes, as it aspires to meet the United Nations 90-90-90 adherence targets set to eliminate the disease by the close of the next decade.

Zambia becomes the first country in the world to adopt and launch the TAF, as it strengthens its fight against the disease. The country grapples with over 1.2 million of its 17 million population infected by the disease, with no cure yet in sight.

It becomes the second HIV suppressor launched in Zambia after the Dolutegravir (DTG), also capable of suppressing the HIV viral load within 15 days, was launched last year.  It has since been rolled out in health centres and is accessed for free.
Health minister Chitalu Chilufya, in launching the drug recently, disclosed that the drug, is co-formulated with Emtricitabine and Dolutegravir as one tablet known as TAFED which suppresses the viral load within a spate of 10 to 14 days and is user friendly to all ages, including children born with the virus in one single dose.

“TAF is better and safer tolerated with less bone and kidney side effects,” said Chilufya.

“The simplification led to harmonisation of antiretroviral regimens between children and adults and provides better outcomes.” 

The drug is expected to assist Zambia control HIV by 2021 as part of the country’s adoption and desire to attain the Universal Health Coverage before the turn of the next decade, given the assistance being rendered by cooperating partners, chiefly the United States under its presidential initiative.

The US President’s Emergency Plan for Aids Relief (PEPFAR), is an integrated response partnering with the Ministry of Health and National HIV/Aids/STI/TB Council under the National Aids Council (NAC), and has been providing grants to the Southern African state in fighting the pandemic since inception in 2004.

In the fiscal year 2019, Zambia received US$385 million for programmes targeting HIV prevention, treatment, care and support, and health systems strengthening in support of its 90-90-90 HIV epidemic control goal.

Next year, Zambia is expected to receive over $421 million, having received over US$ 3.9 billion so far in support of the people living with HIV in Zambia. 

The funds further assists in the prevention of mother-to-child-transmission of HIV (PMTCT) services, reduced the number of children born with HIV and supports over 900,000 Zambians with life-saving anti-retroviral medicines, who if they continue to take their medicines can live longer, healthy lives.

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