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Sub-Saharan Africa sees drug-resistant HIV on the rise

Benjamin O’Connor reports on the latest news in the global battle against HIV/AIDS.

According to a Lancet study, in the past decade, an inability to monitor the taking of HIV medication has resulted in increasing resistance to drugs.

HIV in Sub-Saharan Africa affects a staggering 22,500,000 people which equates to 5% of the total population. In parts of Lesotho and Swaziland, this number is as many as one in four adults aged between 15-49. Currently, the only viable form of treatment is antiretroviral medication.

The study in the Lancet includes 26,000 previously untreated HIV-positive people in a number of developing countries. The outcome suggests that patients fail to stick to drug regimes, leading to serious problems given the lack of alternative treatments in Africa.

The result of intermittent drug use and increased dosages has been the rapid increase in drug resistance, most notably in parts of East Africa where 29% of patients displayed resistance.

Two girls in slums

One in four adults aged between 15-49 are HIV-positive, but the disease is affecting an increasing number of children too.

Authors and researchers from the Lancet study, the World Health Organisation and University College London have said: ‘Without continued and increased national and international efforts, rising HIV drug resistance could jeopardise a decade-long trend of decreasing HIV/Aids-related illness and death in low- and middle-income countries.’

The UK currently has 120,000 HIV/AIDS sufferers with a total drug resistance of around 10%. Whilst this figure may seem high, the UK has an effective monitoring system which results in varying a patient’s medication as and when resistance begins to build up.

Dr Ravindra Gupta at UCL believes that simple measures could be employed to ensure that patients in developing countries adhere to drug regimes. Once basic needs such as food and clean water are provided for the patient to take their medication, all that is needed is a better system of monitoring a patient’s progress.

Aside from access to drugs and a more efficient system of monitoring their usage, ensuring that Africa has basic human amenities is of increasing importance for HIV/AIDS sufferers and, of course, the wider population.



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