People taking antiretroviral drugs have been urged to adhere to their treatment regimens so that they do not develop resistance, reversing recovery benefits and incurring huge health care costs, an Aids expert has said.
By Phyllis Mbanje
“Adherence is critical in suppressing the virus and the level of drug concentration should be maintained so that treatment becomes effective,” said Owen Mugurungi, the director of Aids and TB in the Health ministry. He said HIV treatment success was hinged on sticking to specific time of taking the ARVs and on a daily basis without fail.
“If one defaults on treatment for whatever reason, the virus mutates and becomes resistant to drugs being taken. It then becomes expensive to move a patient from the first line of treatment to the second line.”
In Zimbabwe, currently most people were still on the first line of treatment, which is way cheaper and readily available in most government hospitals.
“For those failing second-line the options are severely limited requiring rigorous trials by the health practitioner to determine which of the remaining drugs can be used,” Mugurungi said.
Poor adherence to antiretroviral therapy (ART) has been shown to be a major determinant of disease progression, hospitalisations, mortality, and health care costs.
While high adherence levels can be achieved in both resource-rich and resource-limited settings following initiation of ART, long-term adherence remains a challenge regardless of available resources.
In a recent study by some French researchers published in the Aids journal, it was revealed that the immune recovery benefits conferred by starting on ARVs for HIV shortly after infection are lost if treatment is later interrupted.
Some people living with HIV and Aids have stopped taking treatment due to some of the so called prophets who claim to be able to cure the virus and other diseases such as cancer risk arrest.
But last year, Health and Child Care minister, David Parirenyatwa warned government was considering having church leaders arrested for lying to sufferers that they have been healed and enticing them to stop taking their medication.