ARV-re­sis­tant pa­tients

Coun­try with high rate of HIV/Aids makes good progress

The Star Early Edition - - NEWS - DANIEL STRANGULATE

KENYA is the first African coun­try to start us­ing a generic ver­sion of the lat­est Aids drug that can im­prove and pro­long the lives of tens of thou­sands of peo­ple who suf­fer se­vere side-ef­fects and re­sis­tance to other treat­ments.

A generic of Do­lute­gravir (DTG), first ap­proved in the US in 2013, is be­ing given to 20 000 pa­tients in Kenya be­fore be­ing rolled out in Nige­ria and Uganda later this year, with the back­ing of the health agency Uni­taid.

DTG is the drug of choice for peo­ple with HIV in high-in­come coun­tries who have not taken an­tiretro­vi­ral ther­apy be­fore and for those who have de­vel­oped re­sis­tance to other treat­ment.

“I had con­stant night­mares and no ap­petite,” said Nairobi res­i­dent Doughti­est Ogutu, who started tak­ing the drug this year be­cause of her re­sis­tance to other treat­ments. “My ap­petite has come back... My body is work­ing well with it.”

Ogutu, who has been liv­ing with HIV for 15 years, said her vi­ral load – the amount of HIV in her blood – had fallen ten­fold from 450 000 to 40 000 since she started on DTG.

Sub-Sa­ha­ran Africa has been at the epi­cen­tre of the HIV pan­demic for decades and home to nearly three-quar­ters of all peo­ple with HIV/ Aids. UNAids aims for 90% of peo­ple di­ag­nosed with HIV to re­ceive an­tiretro­vi­ral treat­ment by 2020.

The brand-name ver­sion of DTG is Tivicay, pro­duced by ViiV Health­care, which is ma­jor­ity-owned by Glax­oSmithK­line.

About 15% of HIV pa­tients were re­sis­tant, which meant the medicines did not work on them, said Sylvia Ojoo, the Kenya coun­try di­rec­tor for the Univer­sity of Mary­land School of Medicine, who is mon­i­tor­ing the in­tro­duc­tion of DTG.

Uni­taid works to bring medicines to mar­ket quickly and to re­duce man­u­fac­tur­ing costs by al­low­ing generic com­pa­nies to ac­cess patents for a small roy­alty and pro­duce them cheaply for the de­vel­op­ing world.

Kenya, with one of the world’s largest HIV-pos­i­tive pop­u­la­tions, has made great strides in ad­dress­ing HIV in its public med­i­cal fa­cil­i­ties.

“The health sys­tems we have in place al­low for rapid de­ploy­ment,” said Ojoo.“It makes it rel­a­tively easy to in­tro­duce new in­ter­ven­tions.”

About 1.5 mil­lion Kenyans are HIV-pos­i­tive, with more than two-thirds on treat­ment, said Martin Sirengo, head of Kenya’s Na­tional Aids and STI Con­trol Pro­gramme.

The num­ber of new in­fec­tions in Kenya had al­most halved over the past decade to 80 000 a year, he said, thanks to in­creased test­ing, treat­ment and aware­ness. – Reuters

TAR­GETED: Phar­ma­cist Michael Otieno dis­penses an­tiretro­vi­ral drugs at the Mater Hospi­tal in Nairobi, Kenya.

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