, NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov 30 – The government has warned that the continuous mutation of the Human Immunodeficiency Virus that causes AIDS, could lead to drug resistance in persons living with HIV/AIDS.
The revelation comes as Kenyan’s prepare to mark World AIDS day on Tuesday.
Medical Services Permanent Secretary Professor James Ole Kiyiapi said: “The HIV virus is mutating which means there will be some selection where some of the viruses will be killed by the drugs while others will remain and resist the drugs and therefore you will have more and more of the drug resistance strain increasing in the immune system.”
“So it is not a matter of if, it’s only when,” he said.
Professor Kiyiapi said that if those on Anti Retroviral (ARV) treatment did not take the medicines as required, it would lead to increased treatment failure and this would require a shift to the more expensive second line drugs.
Second line drugs involve the treatment offered for a disease after the initial one referred to as first line treatment has failed to work or develops serious side effects.
The PS said the government was faced with the challenge of monitoring individuals with HIV drug resistance among patients on long term ARV therapy due to limited resources and only depended on selected sites for this.
He said the government would enhance public education and awareness on the basics of HIV/AIDS and the implications of not conforming to treatment.
World Health Organisation (WHO) Kenya Representative Dr David Okello said currently, there is no HIV drug resistance in the country but there was need to be prepared in case this occurred.
“We are actively monitoring for resistance and if it does come, WHO, CDC (Centre for Disease) and all the partners are helping the country to be ready to deal with it. We are helping the country to put in place the right things to deal with resistance,” Dr Okello said.
They were both speaking in Nairobi on Monday during the launch of a five-year national plan on HIV drug resistance, prevention, monitoring and surveillance that will cost an estimated Sh560 million to implement.
“It is better to prevent than to have to deal with it because once we begin to record it, the challenge will be that there will also be transmission of the drug resistance strain which will require that we use second or third line drugs which are more expensive,” Professor Kiyiapi said.
The plan is aimed at harmonising priorities and methods for organisations currently implementing and those planning to undertake HIV drug resistance prevention, surveillance and monitoring activities in the country.
It also addresses the issue of prevention of HIV transmission to the HIV negative population.