Nearly two in every 10 people living with HIV in Uganda are resistant to antiretroviral (ARVs) drugs, according to findings in a study report that Uganda Virus Research Institute (UVRI) released yesterday. This, the researchers said, requires them to switch to more expensive and scarce medicines.
Prof Pontiano Kaleebu, the UVRI director, said pretreatment drug resistance is the commonest and is more prevalent in Kampala and eastern Uganda especially among mothers, children and adolescents.
“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). [This was particularly so] during those days when we were still giving one drug, not [a combination of] three [drugs]. It would make the mothers develop resistance and pass it on to the children,” he said.
School-going adolescents are shy to take the drugs while at school to blind their peers from knowing that they carry the virus, Prof Kaleebu said, and educational institutions are also places where accessing antiretroviral drugs is difficult.
The researchers also reported what they termed as transmitted and acquired drug resistance types.
The former is passed on by someone who already has a drug resistant virus while the latter occurs if one is not adhering to right dosages or drug variants.
As a result, one would have to be switched from first to second or third line of antiretroviral drugs, according to experts. Individuals who fail to respond eventually die.
Ms Sarah Opendi, the State Health minister for General Duties, said antiretroviral drug resistance threatens the country’s efforts to achieve the global 90-90-90 target. This policy, which Uganda government has embraced, requires that nine out of every 10 persons test for and know their HIV status, a similar number of those tested positive enroll on ARVs and 90 per cent have their viral load suppressed to undetectable levels by 2020.