Drug-resistant HIV on rise in sub-Saharan Africa

Updated: Jul 23, 2012, 13:53 PM IST

London: Experts including an Indian origin scientist have warned that drug-resistant HIV has been increasing in parts of sub-Saharan Africa over the last decade.

The team, which reviewed studies on 26,000 untreated HIV-positive people in developing countries, said resistance could build up if people fail to stick to drug regimes, and because monitoring could be poor.

The researchers, from the World Health Organization (WHO) and University College London (UCL) found the most rapid increase in drug resistance occurred in East Africa, at 29 percent per year. In Southern Africa, it was 14 percent per year.

There was no change in resistance over time in Latin America and in West and Central Africa.

“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,” researchers Dr Silvia Bertagnolio from the WHO and Dr Ravindra Gupta at UCL wrote in the Lancet.

Dr Gupta told the BBC: “Drug resistance is a consequence of people not taking their medication properly.

“We do expect to see drug resistance, and it``s at around 10 percent in the UK and US. But here, we monitor people regularly and switch people to different drugs if they develop resistance,” he said.

He said that quite basic measures could help people to better adhere to drug regimes in developing countries, such as access to food and clean water so they can take their drugs, and monitoring patients as effectively as possible.

The researchers said no changes were needed to the drug regimes, but Dr Gupta said: “This work gives us an early-warning that things could get worse.”