HIV Drug Resistance Spreading in China, Researcher Says
As HIV spreads beyond high-risk groups into China's general population, drug-resistant strains of the virus also are appearing in parts of the country, Chen Zhiwei of the AIDS Institute in Hong Kong said recently, Reuters reports. According to Chen, the two trends are "alarming" and people living with HIV in China could face treatment obstacles because relatively few antiretroviral drugs are available in the country. "All these drug-resistant mutations are in China now, they are emerging in Chinese patients," he said, adding, "The major worry is whether the drug-resistant virus will spread. We are studying whether that is happening, but that will be the case if you don't provide proper treatment. If drug-resistant virus (strains) spread in China, we don't have enough selection of (drugs) that are made available."
According to Reuters, about seven of the more than 20 different antiretrovirals are available in China, meaning that HIV-positive people might be left with limited options if they develop resistance to certain drugs. In addition, treatment adherence can be low in rural parts of China because of a lack of knowledge among patients, low access to health care and inadequate numbers of health care workers to explain the importance of adherence.
Chen's comments follow a study published last week in the journal Nature that found how HIV cases are increasing among women and men who have sex with men in the country. "The virus is moving into the general population," Chen said, adding, "Signs are prevalent among women and" in mother-to-child transmission. Chen also said if "there is no good prevention, transmissions will suddenly explode." According to Chen, China's open southern border is a concern, and an HIV strain recorded in Yunnan province also has been detected in Thailand and Myanmar. He added that this could be explained by women working as commercial sex workers in other countries and returning to China. In addition, travelers crossing China's southern border could be contributing to the situation, Chen said (Ee Lyn, Reuters, 10/10).