The World Health Organization (WHO) tracks and reports on the impact of HIV around the globe. The agency has discovered an increase in drug-resistant strains, according to Reuters on July 20, 2017.
In 2016, the estimated number of cases, globally, was between was between 30.8-42.9 million. During recent surveys, of 11 countries in Latin America, Africa, and Asia. In six of those, they found that 10 percent of the HIV patients were demonstrating resistance to their medications. WHO contends that at this level it is imperative for those countries to examine what the problem is and how it can be resolved.
Reasons for Drug-Resistant HIV
HIV is incurable, but with proper medication and early treatment, they can live a long time. Mutations that cause drug-resistance significantly reduce the lifespan for those afflicted with the virus.
There are several reasons that a person develops a resistance to their retroviral medication. The first and foremost is not taking the prescribed drugs as directed, many people are forced to reduce their dosages or cannot take them each day due to financial or accessibility issues. “Skipping [sic] medicines allows [the virus] to multiply, which increases the risk that the virus will mutate and produce drug-resistant HIV,” according to the AIDS Info., a USDH website.
Another way that medications become useless in the fight against the disease is through natural mutation. As the cells replicate in the body, it can produce variations of itself. Ultimately, this causes the drugs to be ineffective against the virus mutation.
Ramifications of Mutated HIV Strains
Once the disease has developed a variation, the concern is the transmission of drug-resistant strains to other people. Unfortunately, those infected with these new strains may not be reactive to currently available medications.
Mathematical modeling 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 extra $650 million during this time.
WHO laments these numbers. They are emphatic when saying, medical professionals must ensure that patients take the prescribed medications to reduce the possibility of mutation.
Further instructions for physicians in countries experiencing at least 10 percent of their patients include prescribing an alternative first-line therapy for those with a first-time diagnosis. Drug-resistance testing protocols should be strictly adhered to in addition to teaching patients and their families/caregivers the importance of taking the drugs as prescribed. HIV patients need to be made to understand the risk of failing to keep appointments with their medical practitioners.
Global HIV/AIDS Pandemic
UNAIDS statistics bring to light the pandemic portions of HIV and AIDS patients. In 2016; 19.5 million people were receiving antiretroviral therapy, 1.6-2.1 million were newly infected, and 830,000-1.2 million died from AIDS-related complications.
Included in these numbers are children, 15 and younger, 1.8 million diagnosed with virus and 150,000 were recently infected. Females over the age of 15 make up 15.4-20.3 million of the total reported cases. Tragically, only 40-65 percent of patients 15 years and older received antiretroviral therapy and only 30-54 of children aged 14 and younger.
Since 1981, the beginning of the crisis, 65.2-88 million individuals have been diagnosed, and 28.9-41.5 million have passed away from AIDS-related illnesses.
By Cathy Milne
Reuters: HIV drug resistance could undermine progress in AIDS battle: WHO
Secretary’s Minority AIDS Initiative Fund (SMAIF): The Global HIV/AIDS Epidemic
UNAIDS: FACT SHEET – LATEST STATISTICS ON THE STATUS OF THE AIDS EPIDEMIC
U.S. National Library of Medicine: Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, AIDS, HIV, Human immunodeficiency virus
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services: AIDS Info; HIV Treatment—Drug Resistance
Featured and Top Inset Image Courtesy of UNICEF Ethiopia’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License