Rising HIV Prevalence, Resistance to Antiretrovirals in Some African Countries, Studies Say
Resistance to antiretroviral drugs and HIV prevalence are on the rise in some African countries, according to studies presented Thursday at the XVI International AIDS Conference in Toronto, the Washington Post reports. A study conducted in northern Tanzania finds that 32% of HIV-positive people become resistant to some antiretrovirals. Researchers found that people who purchased antiretrovirals themselves were more likely to skip doses and become resistant. In addition, the study finds that "virological failure" rises the longer people are required to pay for drugs. In a separate study conducted in Uganda, researchers tracked HIV prevalence among men and among women in a rural population and women at 24 prenatal clinics, the Post reports. The study finds that in the rural population, HIV prevalence among men rose from 5.6% to 6.5% and in women it rose from 6.9% to 8.8% in the past four years. The study also finds that in seven prenatal clinics HIV prevalence fell, in seven prenatal clinics it leveled off and in 10 it increased. The reason for the rise is unknown, according to the Post (Brown, Washington Post, 8/18). "It's very alarming," study author Leigh Anne Shafer of the Medical Research Council said, adding, "We want to stress the importance of taking action immediately because waiting another year or two for more data could cost thousands of lives" (Smith, Boston Globe, 8/18). According to the Post, mortality rates among HIV-positive people in Entebbe, Uganda, improved with the introduction of antiretrovirals in the area. Before the drugs were available, the mortality rate was 577 deaths per 1,000 people, and now it is 34 deaths per 1,000 people (Washington Post, 8/18).
In a related study, also presented Thursday at the conference, French researchers used statistical models to examine how increasing the number of HIV-positive people who are receiving antiretrovirals in six African countries would affect those countries' economies, the Globe reports. HIV/AIDS has "drained the fiscal vitality of nations in sub-Saharan Africa, with businesses unable to function and government agencies crippled because of so many deaths," the Globe reports. The study finds that expanding access to antiretrovirals in Angola, Benin, Cameroon and Cote d'Ivoire would reverse the negative effects of HIV/AIDS on the countries' economies by 2010. According to the study, the effect "would be more muted" because of financial and political issues in Central African Republic and Zimbabwe, the Globe reports. Mark Wainberg, co-chair of the conference and director of the McGill University AIDS Centre, said, "The potential for economic devastation in Africa may be so great, we may do our own economies long-term harm if we don't help." He added that it makes economic sense for developed countries to pay for antiretrovirals. "[I]t's very important to get drugs to people as soon as possible," Jean-Paul Moatti, co-author of the study, said, adding, "At the level of global economic policy, this is very important" (Boston Globe, 8/18).
Kaisernetwork.org is serving as the official webcaster of the conference. View the guide to coverage and all webcasts, interviews and a daily video round up of conference highlights at http://www.kaisernetwork.org/aids2006. A webcast of the press briefing where Moatti discussed the study on economics and treatment scale-up is available online.