Dar es Salaam. A new study has shown that some pregnant women with the HIV infection have developed resistance to the antiretroviral (ARV) drugs, calling for policy makers to see how best to support the women.
The results of the study conducted in 19 regions of Tanzania showed that the drugs did not work on 27.5 percent of pregnant women diagnosed with the HIV for the first time, while 79.2 percent of those who were already using the anti-viral drugs also behaved the same.
The study, which assessed pre-treatment dug resistance (PDR) and after-treatment drug resistance (ADR) was conducted by the non-governmental organisation Management Development for Health (MDH) and the US-based Centre for Disease Control (CDC).
It is one of the three studies conducted in the country to assess the prevalence, prevention and treatment of HIV during pregnancy and breast-feeding.
Speaking yesterday, the study lead, Dr Boniphace Jullu, said the results should wake up policy makers to look at what they can do to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
“We registered 459 pregnant women who were not using drugs and 543 who had experienced using drugs from 52 randomly selected clinics in 19 regions from April to September 2019,” he said.
“Our results showed that the prevalence of PDR and ADR was high at 27.5 percent and 79.2 percent respectively. In general, most of the participants who did not know their statuses were infected with the chronic HIV virus,” he added. Elaborating further, Dr Jullu said that the pregnant mothers who had shown drug resistance after starting to use the ARVs were those who had contracted a virus that had already developed resistance.
“There is a possibility to acquire HIV infection which is already resistant to drugs from someone else who infects you,” said Dr Jullu.
The chief executive officer of MDH, Dr David Sando, said despite the presence of many clinical services in Tanzania, HIV transmission from mother to child is still high at 11 percent.
“HIV drug resistance is another new threat to the effectiveness of ARV use. Information on drug resistance is available but does not include pregnant women living with HIV,” he said.
“This information is important to informing policy-makers to improve the healthcare services for this group,” said Dr Sando.
Speaking on behalf of Permanent Secretary of the ministry of Health Prof Abel Makubi, the Dar es Salaam regional medical officer, Dr Rashid Mfaume, congratulated the researchers and promised to use the evidence of the domestic research to improve the government plans, policies and guidelines.