DTG Won’t Be Forced On Citizens- Ministry

PEOPLE Living With HIV (PLHIV) and on Antiretroviral Therapy (ART) still have the option to continue taking other ART options apart from Dolutogravir (DTG) based regimens  since the process is not compulsory, a ministry of health and child care (MoHCC) official has said.

By Michael Gwarisa in Gweru

Zimbabwe commenced its transition process from Tenovir/Lamuvidene/Efavirens to Dolutegravir (DTG) in May 2019, and the transition procedure will be completed by February 2020.

Briefing a women living with HIV, Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) workshop organised by PAPWC/ZIM,  ZWLHNF and UNAIDS, Public Health specialist in the ministry of health, Dr Clorata Gwanzura said the benefits of taking DTG based regimes outweigh the shortcomings.

According to scientific evidence, DTG regimens have a high genetic barrier, issues of drug resistance are very low. For children, it has been approved for dosing for children currently who are 15 kilograms and above and evidence is still being gathered on whether it is effective to children who weigh less than 15 kgs.

“We were being recommended to take up DTG based regimens. The recommendations now is saying instead of the Efavirenz that we have been taking, let’s now switch to DTG. This one is being recommended and has been put forth for adult men, adolescent boys and women who are not of child bearing age for example menopausal women and younger children who weigh more than 15 kgs.

“For women of child bearing potential who are using effecting contraception and pregnant women who would have passed the first trimester, there is no harm. Alternatively, we can still maintain our use of Tenolam 400 and Tenolam 600,” said Dr Gwanzura.

DTG belongs to a class of ARV medicines called Integrase inhibitors. It is taken once daily as a pill combined with Tenofovir and Lamivudine as an effective first-line HIV treatment fixed dose combination commonly called TLD. Tenofovir and Lamivudine have been in use in the country for some years now.

Speaking in an interview with HealthTimes on the side-lines of the workshop, Pan African Positive Women Coalition in Zimbabwe (PAPWC) chairperson, Tendayi Westerhof said drugs that were working well for people should be allowed to continue.

“DTG is a new drug so we don’t need to be complacent. For those drugs that are working well for certain people they should be allowed to continue if there are no problems.

“We know there has been information on the potential risks of DTG but if we weigh them, the benefits outweigh the risks. There is no medication that does not have side effects. What we need is a variety of treatment for people not a one size fits all approach. Sometimes if somebody does not do well on DTG, let them continue with other drugs that they are doing well on,” said Westerhof.

She added there is need to strengthen capacity for community based support groups where issues of treatment and treatment adherence, side effects among other issues can be discussed in a broader way.

Meanwhile, Mrs Chipo Chitongo a woman living with HIV from Mrehwa bemoaned the lack of consultation on the part of government when it comes to introducing new HIV treatment regimens.

“When we were changed from Stavudine to Tenolam E, we were not told the reasons why we were shifting and even the side effects were not communicated. As for me, I experienced a back ache after that transition.

“When I was put on Tenolam E, I started to develop nightmares, I wasn’t told about those nightmares. I thought I was developing another disease. I went for a long time having these nightmares but they have since ended. We also used to get 600 milligrams of Efavirenz before we were switched to a lower dose of efavirenz which has 400 mg. When I was switched to 400, my CD4 was at 854 but when I went for another CD4 check six months later, it had gone down to 570, i was really shocked,” said Mr Chintongo.

She however applauded government and World Health Organisation (WHO) for awareness efforts regarding the transition to DTG.

“Now that they are explaining something to us, I am very much prepared to take these drugs. When the drug information was first communicated, I was skeptical but I think my mind is now changing as I am empowered with information.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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