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Injectable HIV treatment, prevention: Everything you need to know

Injectable HIV treatment, prevention: Everything you need to know
Photo by Ketut Subiyanto for Pexels

So much has changed when it comes to injectables — get some clarity here.

Injectables for the Treatment of HIV

In 2021, the Food and Drug Administration approved the first ever long-acting injectable for the treatment of HIV. Cabenuva, from ViiV Healthcare, has been a gamechanger for many living with HIV, especially those struggling with taking daily pills. Depending on your personal treatment plan, Cabenuva can be given in monthly doses or every two months. (If you’re eligible for the every-other-month option, you’ll still need to get a monthly shot for the first two months). It’s currently the only long-acting injectable treatment for controlling HIV available in the U.S. A combination of cabotegravir and rilpivirine, Cabenuva is not recommended for those who’ve had a history of treatment failure or resistance or allergic reaction to either ingredient. Cabenuva is also not recommended for those with a history of serious liver problems. Talk to your doctor to see if this injectable may be a good fit for your lifestyle.

Injectables for HIV Prevention

Advances made in HIV prevention drugs in recent years have been great, especially for those at higher risk of contracting HIV. Apretude (cabotegravir extended-release injectable suspension, or CAB LA) is the only injectable version of pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP, approved by the Food and Drug Administration. It is for HIV-negative adults and adolescents (weighing at least 77 lbs) for the prevention of HIV. Research has proven Apretude, also developed by ViiV, to be even more effective in preventing HIV than its competitors — most likely, at least in part, because users don’t have to remember to take a daily pill. For many, stopping by the clinic every couple months for a shot in the booty may be a lot more convenient. Talk to your doctor about Apretude if you think it might be a good option for you.

Injectables for HIV Drug Resistance

There are also some FDA-approved injectable drugs designed to help treatment-experienced folks living with HIV who have developed multi-drug resistance. Unlike Cabenuva, which is a complete HIV treatment regimen, these injectables are given in combination with other antiretroviral drugs. Sunlenca, developed by Gilead Sciences, is the most recent of these. It is revolutionary in that it only needs to be injected twice a year. It was created for adults whose HIV is not adequately controlled by their current treatment regimen. If you’ve had trouble keeping your viral load down even when on treatment, talk to you doctor right away about the various options that can help with drug resistance.

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