GENEVA, Switzerland– The World Health Organization (WHO) has warned that the spread of an HIV strain resistant to some of the most widely used medicines could undermine progress in the treatment and prevention of HIV infection in the Caribbean and elsewhere if early and effective action is not taken.
According to Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the Director General of the United Nations health agency: “Antimicrobial drug resistance is a growing challenge to global health and sustainable development.
“We need to proactively address the rising levels of resistance to HIV drugs if we are to achieve the global target of ending AIDS by 2030,” he indicated.
The WHO HIV drug resistance report 2017 stated that in six of the 11 countries surveyed in Latin America and the Caribbean, Africa and Asia, more than 10 percent of people starting antiretroviral therapy had a strain of the infection that was resistant to some of the most widely used medicines.
The agency recommends that once the threshold of 10 percent has been reached, countries should urgently review their HIV treatment programmes.
According to the UN agency, HIV drug resistance develops when people do not adhere to a prescribed treatment plan. Those with drug resistance will start to fail therapy and may also pass on drug-resistant viruses to others.
WHO said that of the 36.7 million people with HIV worldwide, 19.5 million were accessing antiretroviral therapy in 2016.
While most of these people are doing well, the number of those experiencing the consequences of drug resistance is growing, it said.
Increasing HIV drug resistance trends could lead to more infections and deaths, WHO warned.
Mathematical modelling 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 additional US$650 million during this time, according to the international health body.