Background: The use of a combination of the integrase inhibitor, cabotegravir, and the non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitor, rilpivirine, in a long-acting injectable form is being considered as an antiretroviral treatment option for people with HIV in sub-Saharan Africa. We aimed to model the effects of injectable cabotegravir–rilpivirine to help to inform its potential effectiveness and cost-effectiveness under different possible policies for its introduction. Methods: We used an existing individual-based model of HIV to predict the effects of introducing monthly injections of cabotegravir–rilpivirine for people with HIV in low-income settings in sub-Saharan Africa. We evaluated policies in the context of 1000 setting scenarios that reflected characteristics of HIV epidemics and programmes in sub-Saharan Africa. We compared three policies for introduction of injectable cabotegravir–rilpivirine with continued use of dolutegravir-based oral regimens for: all individuals on antiretroviral therapy (ART); individuals with a recently measured viral load of more than 1000 copies per mL (signifying poor adherence to oral drugs, and often associated with drug resistance); and individuals with a recently measured viral load of less than 1000 copies per mL (a group with a lower prevalence of pre-existing drug resistance). We also did cost-effectiveness analysis, taking a health system perspective over a 10 year period, with 3% discounting of disability-adjusted life-years (DALYs) and costs. A cost-effectiveness threshold of US$500 per DALY averted was used to establish if a policy was cost-effective. Findings: In our model, all policies involving the introduction of injectable cabotegravir–rilpivirine were predicted to lead to an increased proportion of people with HIV on ART, increased viral load suppression, and decreased AIDS-related mortality, with lesser benefits in people with a recently measured viral load of less than 1000 copies per mL. Its introduction is also predicted to lead to increases in resistance to integrase inhibitors and non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors if introduced in all people with HIV on ART or in those with a recently measured viral load of less than 1000 copies per mL, but to a lesser extent if introduced in people with more than 1000 copies per mL due to concentration of its use in people less adherent to oral therapy. Consistent with the effect on AIDS-related mortality, all approaches to the introduction of injectable cabotegravir–rilpivirine are predicted to avert DALYs. Assuming a cost of $120 per person per year, use of this regimen in people with a recently measured viral load of more than 1000 copies per mL was borderline cost-effective (median cost per DALY averted across setting scenarios $404). The other approaches considered for its use are unlikely to be cost-effective unless the cost per year of injectable cabotegravir–rilpivirine is considerably reduced. Interpretation: Our modelling suggests that injectable cabotegravir–rilpivirine offers potential benefits; however, to be a cost-effective option, its introduction might need to be carefully targeted to individuals with HIV who might otherwise have suboptimal adherence to ART. As data accumulate from trials and implementation studies, such findings can be incorporated into the model to better inform on the full consequences of policy alternatives. Funding: Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, including through the HIV Modelling Consortium (OPP1191655).
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