South Africa is using a new state-of-the-art antiretroviral drug to drastically reduce the number of people living with HIV in the country. The new three-in-one pill combines the drugs tenofovir disoproxil fumarate, lamivudine, and dolutegravir into one affordable, easily taken dose. Dolutegravir is currently the preferred first-line, and second-line, treatment recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO).
Robert Matiru of the global health development organization Unitaid said, “The introduction of this new regimen, known as TLD, is a major milestone and game-changer for South Africa, which has the highest burden of HIV of any country in the world.” There are 7.7 million South Africans currently living with HIV, accounting for 20 percent of the global prevalence of the disease. The country accounts for more than 10 percent of all HIV-related deaths and 15 percent of new infections globally, according to Unitaid.
Matiru said 5 million more people could receive treatment based on the savings created by transferring those on older antiretrovirals (ARVs) to the new, cheaper regimen. He said, “The government has the very ambitious plan of switching the 4.8 million South Africans who are currently on the older regimen of HIV treatment on to this new regimen by 2021, in addition to getting the remaining [roughly] 3 million people who are not currently on HIV treatment on to this regimen by then as well. It’s a massive undertaking to put in place, and is a really welcome move for the people of South Africa.”
Global HIV infections among adults have dropped by 17 percent since 2010. A dozen countries have reduced new adult HIV infections by 26 percent or more since 2010. Those countries include South Africa (39 percent), the Democratic Republic of the Congo (37 percent), Uganda (36 percent), and Zimbabwe (28 percent).
However, there is still much more work to be done. Tabitha Ha, advocacy manager at StopAids, said in a statement, “Global prevention efforts need to be ramped up urgently in order to get us back on track and offer us the opportunity to turn the tide. We must collectively increase our financial investment in prevention tools, break down stigma and discrimination, as well as remove the legal and structural barriers that prevent people most likely to be affected with HIV from accessing healthcare.”