Survey Finds Number of HIV-Positive People in China Have Become Resistant to at Least One HIV Drug
More than 17% of HIV-positive patients in 28 China provinces developed resistance to at least one available HIV/AIDS drug by 2006 and 2007, Chinese government researchers announced at the XVII International AIDS Conference in Mexico City, Reuters reports. Those who developed drug resistance tended to have low or unstable incomes, government researchers said.
According to Reuters, the finding is "surprising" because very few people had access to HIV drugs before China began a program to distribute them at no cost in 2003. In addition, HIV usually does not mutate into a drug-resistant form unless people have taken the antiretrovirals for a long period of time.
"When we first started, we didn't have much experience, and patients tended to be suspicious if these medications could work. So their adherence was not good and that resulted in higher rates of drug resistance," Liao Lingjie of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention said, adding, "People who began treatment later are responding better."
According to the Chinese government, about 700,000 people were living with HIV in China in 2007. Of those, about 20,000 receive antiretrovirals at no cost, official Chinese media report, Reuters reports. The World Health Organization had estimated that about 122,000 people in China would require access to antiretrovirals by the end of 2004.
Only seven of the more than 20 HIV medications are available in China, which leaves HIV-positive people in the country with limited treatment options, Reuters reports. According to Liao, officials are following up with patients who have become resistant to medications, and some will participate in clinical trials. "A small number of people are now trying out second-line drugs to see if the medication is suitable," she said (Tan, Reuters, 8/6).
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