…As Zimbabwe Faces Worst Health Time Bomb…ART could Cost $6.5 billion in 2030 due HIV Drug Resistance!!!
By Michael Gwarisa
LOCAL prophets who claim to have healing powers over AIDS should desist from doing so, as their claims have seen a number of HIV positive individuals on Anti Retro-viral Treatment (ART) stopping their medication , hence fueling HIV drug resistance, a top health expert has said.
The call comes hot on the heels of a World Health Organisation (WHO) warning over increased cases of an HIV Drug Resistant virus (HIVDR) in six Southern African countries including Zimbabwe where levels of or pre-treatment HIV Drug Resistance was above 10 percent.
Speaking during a National Aids Council (NAC) Editors Workshop in Kadoma, Health Care practitioner Dr Cleopas Chimbetete said Prophets among other factors, were to blame for the rise in cases of HIVDR in Zimbabwe.
“So the answer to your question is Yes, Prophets are also to blame for cases of HIV drug resistance in Zimbabwe. If I never told you that you are HIV positive and you are on ARVs, I have no right to tell you that you are HIV negative, because I never diagnosed you in the first place.
“So Prophets should say go back to the person who diagnosed you and told you that you were positive and let them check whether you are or not. We have seen a couple of patients who have been told that you have been healed, and stop taking ARVs falling sick terrible after stopping their medication. If a person comes to us and we test him/her and don’t see the HIV virus in the system, what it just means is that the ARVs are working not the other way round,” said Dr Chimbetete.
According to Chimbetete, the HIVDR threat could derail efforts of achieving the 2030, 90-90-90 target if it goes unchecked.
“HIV Drug resistance is a time bomb, recently we read news that Zimbabwe is under the threat of a super HIV bug that is not sensitive ARVs that we have. What the WHO is saying is that HIV Drug resistance is rising and it needs urgent attention.
“Because of HIV drug resistance, if things continue at the current rate, it is estimated that in 2030, from a global point of view, ART will cost an extra US$6.5 billion per year by year 2030. HIVDR will also mean that, the treatment options that we have will be limited, so we have a number of ART medicines that we can use, but if the virus develops resistance to some of them, it means our options are limited.”
Meanwhile, the Drug Resistant Virus can also be transmitted to other people and the drug resistant gene can mutate and spread just like the usual HIV virus meaning health experts’ efforts of ending the epidemic could go to naught.
HIV drug resistance is whereby the HIV Virus is able to make new copies of itself in the presence of ARVs. Meaning one may be on treatment, or taking ARVs but the ARVs will no longer be able to work against the virus hence the virus has developed resistance.
“There are different forms of HIV drug resistance, there is what is called transmitted or Primary Drug resistance, what this means is, you are an HIV negative person, you get infected because you have unprotected sex with an HIV positive person and the virus he/she is carrying is already drug resistant.
“We also have pre-treatment drug resistance, this means that when we start you on ARVs, you already have HIV drug resistant virus within you. So whether you had taken ARVs before and you had not told us, or you were infected by a virus that is already drug resistant but what we know is at the time of starting ARVs, you already had a virus that was resistant to drugs,” added Dr Chimbetete.
He added that Zimbabwe had exhibited huge signs of pre-treatment Drug Resistance which is above 10 percent, meaning already 10 percent of people who have not been initiated on ARVs in Zimbabwe have a drug resistant virus.
There is also acquired, induced or secondary drug resistance, which means one gets infected with a virus that is already sensitive to ARVs. This one is hugely caused by not adhering or taking ARVs religiously or skipping medications.
The Secondary induced virus has also been identified as the leading cause of increased cases of babies who are being born with an already Drug Resistant virus.