KAMPALA – At least one in ten people living with HIV/Aids are resistant to antiretroviral (ARVs) drugs in Uganda, a new study has revealed, a setback to the country’s effort to meet the 2020 target of viral load suppression set by UNAIDS.
The disturbing findings are results of a study conducted by the Uganda Virus Research Institute (UVRI), which were presented at a conference in Kampala last week.
Prof. Pontiano Kaleebu, the UVRI director, said drug resistance is more manifest among mothers, children and adolescents in Kampala and the eastern region.
“We have a lot of pretreatment resistance in women and children especially children born to mothers on PMTCT [prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV/Aid] especially during those days when we were still giving one drug, not three. It would make the mothers develop resistance and pass it on to the children,” Prof Kaleebu said.
He added: “Also the adolescents who are young and are at school, are shy to take the drugs avoiding to be known and are in places where the drugs are not easily accessed also develop drug resistance.”
“When someone becomes resistant, they don’t respond to LINE 1, 2 or 3 so eventually the patients fail on all the drugs and in the end, the patient may die because there is no drug that can work on them,” he added.
Ms Sarah Opendi, the State Minister of Health for General Duties, said drug resistance is a threat to Uganda’s efforts to achieve the global target of 90-90-90 percent set by UNAIDS.
In 2014, the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) and partners launched the 90–90–90 targets. The aim was to diagnose 90% of all HIV-positive persons, provide antiretroviral therapy (ART) for 90% of those diagnosed, and achieve viral suppression for 90% of those treated by 2020
“We need to ensure that the factors that may lead to the emergence of antiretroviral resistance like the poor prescription, poor patient retention on the first line drugs, stock-outs and poor patient follow up are addressed. For us to be able to address these challenges, we need resources,” Ms Opendi said.
She urged Parliament to first track the establishment of the Aids Trust Fund which was endorsed in 2012, to create a separate fund from the Ministry of Health budget so as to tackle the HIV epidemic in the country
The HIV Impact Assessment (UPHIA) indicating that the total number of adults and children of all ages living with HIV in Uganda is estimated to be approximately 1.3 million. The 2016 UPHIA indicated a fall in HIV national prevalence at 6% compared to 7.3%, according to the 2011 Uganda AIDS Indicator Survey.