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Africans Left Out in Breakthrough HIV Medication

Activists have been part of international Aids conferences since they stormed the stage at the last one held in Montreal, in 1989, insisting to the doctors and scientists that there must be no discussion without them. By the Durban conference in 2000, the protests were huge as the death toll mounted in Africa and Asia. Effective treatment was then available in rich countries but priced out of possibility in low-income nations. Blood-red paint was thrown over drug company stands in the exhibition area. Marchers filled whole streets. New infections are highest among girls and young women in sub-Saharan Africa, who have been forced out of school during Covid and subjected to violence from men. Last year, they accounted for 63% of all new HIV infections. CAB-LA is discreet and highly effective. The obvious comparison is with long-lasting injectable contraception. Young women may be able to get a jab every two months that will protect them from HIV, without anyone in their family or community knowing. PrEP in pill form has been targeted at sex workers and gay men, risking criminalisation in countries with homophobic laws. That inadvertently fed stigma, deterring young women from seeking it out. Already, global targets are off track and funding is endangered. CAB-LA is one potential success story. Botswana’s massive achievement in containing its HIV epidemic, so that 95% of people with HIV know their status and 95% of those are on treatment and no longer infectious, is another.