'I'm a warrior': How the anti-HIV injection empowers young women

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Illustration photo by Getty Images
Illustration photo by Getty Images

  • South Africa’s medicines regulator, the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA), has approved a bimonthly anti-HIV injection called CAB-LA. 
  • The shot almost entirely cancels people’s chances of contracting HIV through sex. It's also easier to stick to than the daily HIV prevention pill. 
  • At the Emavundleni Research Centre in Nyanga outside Cape Town, more than 200 women have taken the jab as part of a clinical trial.
  • Our reporters travelled to Cape Town and spoke to three women who’ve become HIV prevention advocates in their communities.
  • Watch the video to find out why they’re worried about getting the virus and how the injection has changed their lives.

A bimonthly anti-HIV injection has been a game changer for the Cape Town women who got access to it through a clinical trial known as HPTN084.

The jab, called CAB-LA, practically nullifies people’s chances of contracting HIV, partly because it’s so much easier to take than a daily oral pill

It can be hard to stick to a daily regimen, says Amanda Roberts, one of 200 women who took part in the open-label arm of the study at the Emavundleni Research Centre in Nyanga.

"Some days I’m not at home, I’m having fun, and I don’t have my pills on me. I used to think: I’m going to take tablets to a party? No way."

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In an open-label study both the researchers and participants know which drug trial participants receive. 


The injection isn’t only convenient, it’s empowering too, says Boleka Ntshintshi. "You know men don’t want to use condoms," she says, but with CAB-LA it’s become easier for Ntshintshi to protect herself. "It isn’t about what your partner says. It’s all about you."

Ntshintshi concludes: "I’ve regained my dignity. I feel powerful."

Sinethemba Kolisile says the jab has given her peace of mind. "The times we’re living in are dangerous. There are a lot of rapes. You don’t know whether your rapist is HIV positive."

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The three women want the injection to be available for everyone. 

Studies show the shot can prevent up to a quarter of South Africa’s new annual infections (52 000 out of 200 000). 

South Africa’s medicines regulator the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA) approved the jab on 2 December, and the health department told Bhekisisa it could be in clinics by August 2023 — as long as it’s affordable. 

Watch the full video to find out how CAB-LA works to prevent HIV from entering people’s cells.

READ MORE | Violence against women is staggeringly high in South Africa 

If you're being abused and want to connect with a counsellor, you can contact the following organisations:

• POWA on (011) 642 4345/6 or (011) 591 6800 (available from 8:30 to 16:30 from Monday to Friday) or 076 694 5911. WhatsApp POWA on 060 400 0669 (available from 8:30 to 16:30 from Monday to Sunday). You can also email   

• Contact ADAPT at 011 885 3332 / 011 786 6608 or email    

• Contacts TEARS foundation on *134*7355# (Free) or contact TEARS on 010 590 5920 (24/7)  

• Contact the #GBV Command Centre on 0800 428 428 for counselling services 24/7. 

This story was produced by the Bhekisisa Centre for Health Journalism. Sign up for the newsletter.

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