'ARVs switch causing Aids treatment default'

HARARE - People living with HIV are complaining that hospitals are forcing them to default on their anti-retroviral drugs (ARVs) while they go through a procedure of switching from three tablets to one anti-Aids drug.

Defaulting on the ARVs can cause drug resistance, higher viral loads and disease progression.

Some of the patients are going for more than two weeks without taking drugs, with hospitals insisting the transition period is necessary to conduct tests before they can be switched to a single dose of the anti-Aids drug that is aimed at simplifying the treatment regime for people living with the virus .

The ministry of Health and Child Care says the current regimen of swallowing various tablets at a go is expensive and unsustainable.

“My brother was denied tablets at Murehwa Hospital as they said they needed to do a CD4 count first before they can switch him to the one tablet. The problem is they did not have the machine to conduct tests at the hospital and referred him to Nyadire,” a brother of one of the patients told the Daily News on Sunday.

“That meant more expenses and worse still the results do not come out on the same day. Now for me to come with him to Harare they will still refer him back to Murehwa and you know the whole process might take about three weeks. We are worried that it will affect his health.”

People living with HIV used to take Tenofovir, Lamivudine and Efavirenz but they are switching to a single dose of anti-Aids drug.

Government said patients should not be denied drugs while tests are being conducted.

“If the centre is unable to do the tests, they can take blood samples, send it elsewhere while the patient is on treatment. Nobody should be denied treatment because you want to switch,” director of Aids and TB unit in the ministry of Health Owen Mugurungi said.

“That’s why we are saying it’s an issue of communication. But if they are not able to do that, it should not be a reason to deny them the drugs.”

Mugurungi said the tests were useful in assessing how the patient was responding to the drugs and a necessary component of the switching process.

“So we are encouraging people to go to their health centres where the switch can happen,” he said.

“But obviously before the switch, the health centre would also want to find out if the patient is doing well. They conduct a few tests; CD4 count, they check on the viral load and so on because it’s also an opportunity to see how people are responding to treatment.

“Remember we are switching at first line, which we are moving people from separate drugs to one drug. So if you’re already failing on that and we switch you to one drug, what have we done, nothing.

“When you have one pill a day you make sure that you take it, you have taken the three in one. In terms of logistics in procurement and movement of stocks it’s also good to have one pill a day.”

Comments (19)

please do your research before you misinform the public ,tenofovir ,lamivudine and efavirenz are indeed the three in one arv regimen not otherwise as u are stating....

innocent sibanda - 21 September 2015

the switch should be done whilst the patients are continuing with their previous regimen ,commmon sense and professinal knowlwdge dictate that .....there is a lot of proffessional misconduct going on at our hospitals and we expect healthcare professionals dispensing hiv and aids treatment to be conversant with the WHO guidelines ...this shows gross incompetency on the healthcare givers and a step back in the fight against hiv and aids ,trained people dont need to be reminded about the dangers of not adhering to treatment ....i doubt its an issue of communication breakdown as the learned doctor is saying but a case of professional misdemours .....

innocent sibanda - 21 September 2015

the switch should be done whilst the patients are continuing with their previous regimen ,commmon sense and professinal knowlwdge dictate that .....there is a lot of proffessional misconduct going on at our hospitals and we expect healthcare professionals dispensing hiv and aids treatment to be conversant with the WHO guidelines ...this shows gross incompetency on the healthcare givers and a step back in the fight against hiv and aids ,trained people dont need to be reminded about the dangers of not adhering to treatment ....i doubt its an issue of communication breakdown as the learned doctor is saying but a case of professional misdemours .....

innocent sibanda - 21 September 2015

This switch has seen patients reacting violently to some prescribed medications. In my case I was made to take medication that I had informed the Medical doctors that I would react to - and guess what I reacted violently - having huge pimples all over my face before I was given the 1 day TENOLAM drug. And then comes the horror: that of being given expired drugs i.e. expiring end Sept 2015 and being told to take them from Oct, Nov to Dec. The being told that these ARV tabs will still be effective. God the anxiety is killing me though I continue to take these near-to expiring drugs. What is really happening? I have 5 kids & would love to see my children grow up whilst I am still alive. I AM SAD, ANXIOUS and do not know what to expect next.

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