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New pill set to strengthen the fight against HIV

Written by Silusapho Nyanda

The Department of Health has introduced a new and more effective medication which is set to have a far-reaching impact on the fight against HIV. 

A simple, more affordable and effective HIV medication was recently launched in South Africa by Minister of Health Zweli Mkhize and will be rolled-out across the country.

The new medication, known as TLD, is a three-in-one, fixed-dose combination that includes dolutegravir, lamivudine and tenofovir. It works by suppressing the viral load, which is the number of HIV particles in a person’s bloodstream.

According to the Department of Health, the mediation has fewer side effects for people living with HIV. TLD can be used by anyone, regardless of their age, gender, race, CD4 cell count and clinical stage. The pill is small and easy-to-swallow.

“It is the best medicine that is used anywhere in the world and we are very pleased to be able to provide it to our patients. The new medication has fewer side effects, is more tolerable and decreases the viral load more rapidly,” said Mkhize at the launch, held in the Ugu district on KwaZulu-Natal’s south coast, which has one of the highest HIV infection rates in South Africa.

Ugu has attained the United Nations AIDS-set 90-90-90 target, which specifies that by 2020, 90 percent of all people living with HIV will know their HIV status; 90 percent of people diagnosed with HIV infection will be on treatment and 90 percent of people receiving antiretroviral therapy will have viral suppression.

“This is a huge achievement in a district and province with the highest rate of HIV in the country,” Mkhize said.

The pill’s known side effects include nausea, insomnia or occasional dizziness, but these are mild and manageable.

When children become mothers

Another health concern highlighted by the Minister at the launch was teenage pregnancies. “We have too many unwanted and unintended pregnancies in our country as well as too many teenage pregnancies.”

He said in the Ugu district alone, 66 girls between the ages of 10 and 14 and 2 436 between the ages of 15 and 19 gave birth in 2018.

“We need to attend to this urgently as children should be children and not parents,” he said.