The fight against HIV/Aids in South Africa, is expected to reach a new dimension, soon.
The state, is expected to roll out the drug, dolutegravir, which has been hailed as a’ revolutionary, effective, cheaper and less toxic antiretroviral drug’, at government run hospitals and other health facilities, within the next few weeks.

The drug, which has been given the thumbs up by the World Health Organisation, is already available at private hospitals.

The HIV/Aids breakthrough was disclosed by Professor Francois Venter of Ezintsha, a sub-syndicate of the Wits Reproductive Health and HIV Institute at Wits University. Venter presented the results of the 48 week research conducted into dolutegravir, at the recent prestigious International AIDS Society’s Scientific Conference in Mexico.

Said Venter: ” Dolutegravir containing regimens are cheaper than efavirenz-containing ones, with fewer side effects and a greater resistance barrier. This study confirms the results in other studies in Europe and North America, and will revolutionise antiretroviral treatment in South Africa and beyond,” he said dolutegravir is cheaper and has a robust resistance barrier.

“It will stop patients from moving to more toxic and more expensive drugs. Dolutegravir will allow South Africa to continue to scale up access for treatment, to meet the UNAIDS, World Health Organisation and the SA Government’s 90-90-90 targets. This refers to the goal of 90 percent of people living with HIV knowing their status, 90 percent of patients being on antiretoviral treatment and 90 percent of those being virally supressed,” said Venter.

The professor remarked that the researcher’s brief included – possible saving costs to the public sector and resistance and side effects that would significantly impact the well-being of HIV/Aids patients.

” The study was designed with input from local and international collaborators, and funded by USAID, Unitaid, the South African Medical Research Council, and the Bill and Milinda Gates Foundation. ViiV Healthcare and Gilead Sciences donated the drugs. 1053 people living with HIV were provided with the new drug at sites in Yeoville and Hillbrow in Johannesburg. 60 percent of the patients were female. It was established that at 48 weeks, the virological suppression rates in the study arms were very similar. This finding is important, as there has long been concern about rising transmitted drug resistance in South Africa,” said Venter.

He said the study commenced in January 2017, and by May 2018, the recruitment of the 1053 participants, mainly from inner-city Johannesburg, was finalised. ” In April 2019, all participants had completed their 48-week study visit. The findings of the study was disclosed at the International Aids Conference in Mexico. The results are important because the Johannesburg trial included a population much more representative of the real-world populations being treated for HIV across lower- and middle-income countries. Study participants were Black,” said Venter. Previous studies of dolutegravir involved around 3,000 participants, most of whom were middle-aged White men from high-income countries in the US and Europe. They obviously aren’t reflective of the global and South African HIV epidemic