Kampala. Despite Uganda making major progress in HIV/Aids treatment since the epidemic was reported in 1980s, a number of patients have since developed resistance to the available anti-retroviral drugs, with limited access to the hardline treatment also known as third line.
A new study whose results were presented at the 16th Annual Scientific Conference organised by Uganda Society Health Scientists in Kampala last week, showed that there are limited options for the third line Anti-Retroviral Therapy (ART) in settings such as Uganda.
The study, carried out among 298 people receiving second line treatment at Baylor-Uganda between 2010 and 2013, indicated that about 22 per cent were cases of treatment failure as the viral load appeared to be greater than 1000 copies per millilitre.
“Viral load monitoring is recommend by World Health Organisation for patients on ART to detect early treatment failure resulting from poor drug adherence or drug resistance and allows intervention to reduce morbidity preserve treatment options,” the study indicated.
Mr Moses Matovu, a laboratory technologist at Baylor-Uganda and also a lead investigator, said the study found a relatively high rate of treatment failure on the second line at a paediatric and adolescent HIV clinic in Kampala.
Dr Jacqueline Kagwa, the clinic manager at Baylor, explained that when a person on ART has a detectable viral load above 1000 copies per millilitre, it is an indication of drug resistance.
She added that ever since the United States introduced HIV treatment through the President’s Emergency Plan for Aids Relief (PEPFAR) in 2004, a number of patients have developed resistance to the first line and second line treatment , rasing concern among researchers
Prof Peter Mugyenyi, who pioneered HIV vaccine trials and treatment for the management of HIV/Aids in Uganda, said the third line drugs required for resistant patients are not provided by PEPFAR, the Global Fund and government of Uganda. “We need to treat these people with efficient drugs,” he noted.
The Health minister, Dr Elioda Tumwesigye, said that government is still looking for funding to have the third line treatment available. He added that currently drugs which suppress viral replication are only available at the Joint Clinical Research Centre.