Kampala. People living with HIV/Aids in Uganda (PLWHA) will stop taking Septrin as a complementary drug that fights opportunistic infections such as malaria, diarrhoea and pneumonia, according to the new Health ministry guidelines.
Dr Joshua Musinguzi, the head of the HIV/Aids programme at Ministry of Health, said the guidelines followed a recent research by scientists from both the ministry and the Uganda Virus Research Institute (UVRI) which came up with evidence that the drug is useless among people who are virally suppressed and stable on drugs.
“They [researchers] came up with a category of the newly enrolled individuals on treatment, pregnant women and infected children below 15 years need and should continue with the medicine [Septrin]. But these others above 15, not pregnant, have been on drugs for years and are stable, we are wasting resources,” Dr Musinguzi explained.
Dr Musinguzi was on Friday speaking during the ministry’s August Media breakfast meeting themed on HIV/Aids interventions geared towards achieving UNAIDS 90-90-90 targets.
He further noted that the reason why the first category of PLWHA don’t need the drug is because they are currently started on antiretroviral drugs (ARVs) the moment they test positive which keeps their immunity strong from virus related opportunistic infections, according to evidence presented by researchers.
The more effective ARVs, he said, that have been introduced also help to keep away infections such as diarrhoea, malaria and pneumonia.
In doing so, government is also expected to reduce it’s expenditure on purchasing Septrin by $2m (Shs7.5b) from the previous $8m (Shs30b) annually which will reduce the funding gap, according to Dr Musinguzi.
Uganda adopted policy of providing Septrin for all HIV-infected individuals of six weeks old and above in 2005 on recommendations from World Health Organisation (WHO) and UNAIDS
However, the programme has faced rampant shortages which have always left the beneficiaries stranded with the last stockout reported in May.
Government has, however, attributed the shortages to the inefficient global supply chain, meaning that the new development may not necessarily solve the problem.
When asked about the new development, Dr Stephen Watiti, a medical consultant on HIV/Aids at Mild May-Uganda, applauded the move, saying it was long overdue since the better ARV drugs currently given to PLWHA are enough to protect patients.
“It is something good and everyone should embrace it as it reduces the burden. You don’t need to take so many drugs. And because they have side effects, they should be used rationally only when they are needed, “Dr Watiti said in a telephone interview yesterday.