breakthrough

HIV-positive man shares joy at taking his last HIV-medication pill

Morris A. Singletary at GLAAD awards
Morris A. Singletary (Photo: Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for GLAAD)

An advocate for those living with HIV has shared his happiness at being able to stop having to take a daily pill to treat his HIV.

Earlier this year, the FDA approved the first injectable treatment for the virus. Morris Singletary’s physician is switching him from daily pills to these monthly injections. This is a development that many of those living with HIV might not have imagined would ever come.

Singletary lives in Atlanta. He posted to his Facebook last week about ending daily tablets.

“Today is my last day taking pills for HIV!!! 15 years ago l was taking 23 pills. CABENUVA (cabotegravir; rilpivirine) here I come.”

Cabenuva is a two-shot combo from the pharmaceutical company, Viiv Healthcare, which is owned by GlaxoSmithKline.

Cabenuva consists of two injections: rilpivirine, commonly sold as Edurant by Janssen, and a new drug, Cabotegravir, from ViiV Healthcare. They’re administered as intramuscular injections in your buttocks.

Last summer, Singletary talked to Queerty about his life and the impact of his HIV diagnosis.

When he was diagnosed in 2006, he was already gravely ill. His diagnosis came as a shock, and things got worse before getting better. It wasn’t until he got on the HIV medication cocktail that things began to turn around, and his health and vigor for life returned.

Now 44, and HIV undetectable, Singletary has been able to turn his experiences around and help others in the process–and then some. He’s worked for health organizations as a peer counselor/educator. He also started a successful live stream about living with HIV, which evolved into the HIV prevention and education initiative, PoZitive2PoSitive, he runs.

His work was recognized a couple of years ago by GLAAD, which invited him to introduce Beyonce and Jay-Z to the stage at its 2019 GLAAD Media Awards in Los Angeles.

Singletary told Queerty why he was so happy to be switching from pills to an injection.

“This med change makes me happy for a few reasons. I remember being diagnosed and having to take 23 pills overnight! Taking this shot reminds me of where I was and the progress I have made. Just answering your questions has me tearing up.”

Singletary says that while he was preparing to switch to injections, he had to go on two major trips: “These trips put pressure on me to not miss a day.” He believes other people who travel a lot might benefit from switching to a monthly injection.

He also says just the act of taking a pill each day was a constant reminder of his HIV status, so “Anyone who deals with stigma and has pill anxiety,” might also be interested in injections, he says.

Among others who might benefit will be anyone who struggles to remember to take their daily medication.

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Of course, there are many HIV-positive people who are happy with their daily pill regime, or who don’t like the idea of injections. Singletary will continue to be monitored to see how his viral loads respond to the switch to injections. He tells Queerty he’d be prepared to go back to pills or follow his physician’s advice if his viral load does not remain undetectable.

Following the FDA approval of one-a-month injections in January, the makers of Cabenuva submitted a second FDA application on February 24 for once-every-two-month injections. This is still pending approval, but means that those living with HIV may have to have even less injections in the future.

Cabenuva has been approved for use in the US, Canada and Australia, and in Europe under the name Vocabria and Rekambys. If you’re thinking of changing your treatment, make sure to discuss it with your doctor first.

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