Home >science >health >WHO flags warning about increasing HIV drug resistance

New Delhi: Observing an increasing trend of resistance to HIV drugs, the World Health Organization (WHO) on Thursday flagged a warning to all countries and issued fresh guidelines to tackle the threat.

The 2017 WHO HIV Drug Resistance report shows that in six of the 11 countries surveyed in Africa, Asia and Latin America, over 10% of people starting antiretroviral therapy had a strain of HIV that was resistant to some of the most widely used HIV medicines.

Once the threshold of 10% has been reached, WHO recommends those countries to urgently review their HIV treatment programmes.

According to WHO, increasing HIV drug resistance trends could lead to more infections and deaths. Mathematical modelling shows an additional 135,000 deaths and 105,000 new infections could follow in the next five years if no action is taken, and HIV treatment costs could increase by an additional $650 million during this time.

“Antimicrobial drug resistance is a growing challenge to global health and sustainable development. We need to proactively address the rising levels of resistance to HIV drugs if we are to achieve the global target of ending AIDS by 2030," said Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general, WHO.

HIV drug resistance develops when people do not adhere to a prescribed treatment plan, often because they do not have consistent access to quality HIV treatment and care. Individuals with HIV drug resistance will start to fail therapy and may also transmit drug-resistant viruses to others.

The level of HIV in their blood will increase, unless they change to a different treatment regimen, which could be more expensive—and, in many countries, still harder to obtain.

Of the 36.7 million people living with HIV worldwide, 19.5 million people were accessing antiretroviral therapy in 2016. The majority of these people are doing well, with treatment proving highly effective in suppressing the HIV virus. But a growing number is experiencing the consequences of drug resistance, the WHO statement said.

“We need to ensure that people who start treatment can stay on effective treatment, to prevent the emergence of HIV drug resistance. When levels of HIV drug resistance become high we recommend that countries shift to an alternative first-line therapy for those who are starting treatment," said Dr Gottfried Hirnschall, director of WHO’s HIV Department and Global Hepatitis Programme.

The fresh guidelines recommend that countries monitor the quality of their treatment programmes and take action as soon as treatment failure is detected.

“The new report pulls together key HIV drug resistance survey findings from across the globe that, taken together with other national-level data, confirm we must be forward-thinking in our efforts to combat resistance: scaling up viral load testing, improving the quality of treatment programs, and transitioning to new drugs like dolutegravir," said Dr Shannon Hader, director of Centre for Disease Control (CDC)’s Division of Global HIV and TB, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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