HARARE – Zimbabwe has introduced a new user-friendly Anti-Retroviral Treatment (ARV) drug which experts say has fewer side effects on users, and also increases adherence to treatment.
The new combination drug called Tenofovir, Lamivudine, Efavirenz — also known as TLE400 — is said to be the current treatment of choice globally in the first line treatment of HIV/Aids.
The distributors of the drug in Zimbabwe, New Avakash International, said at the weekend that they had already acquired substantial stocks for both the private and public health sectors.
“From the presentations done by the ministry of Health and the private sector, it is apparent that this new combination of TLE400 as we call it actually presents lesser side effects and is also cost-effective and more tolerable with the patient,” New Avakash product manager, Kuda Chapfika, said on the sidelines of the drug’s launch in Harare on Saturday.
The new drug is taken once a day, a move experts say promotes adherence to treatment.
Ministry of Health and Child Care (Aids and TB unit) deputy director, Tsitsi Apollo, said the country was making considerable efforts to adhere to World Health Organisation treatment guidelines and to achieve the much-talked about 90-90-90 target.
This target seeks to have 90 percent of all people with HIV know their status, 90 percent of diagnosed people being on treatment, and 90 percent of those on treatment having suppressed levels of the virus in their bodies by 2020.
“There are some key considerations that are taken in making treatment choices. We consider the safety of the medicine and those that have minimum adverse effects because if patients cannot tolerate the medicine there is going to be poor adherence to treatment and obviously they won’t benefit from it.
“We do have a high HIV-TB co-infection and this is also very important when we consider the HIV treatment choices,” Apollo said.
The launch of the new ARV drug comes as the government has embarked on an ambitious $103 million five-year HIV-testing strategy which seeks to raise the number of people who know their status.
The government is keen to build on the progress which has been made in the last seven years, which saw national new HIV infections falling by 50 percent.
It is estimated that about 62 percent of men and almost half of adolescent girls currently do not know their status.
Zimbabwe has an HIV prevalence rate of 13,7 percent, and according to the 2016 national estimates, about 1,3 million people are living with HIV — with 86 000 being children.
The country has been making strides in its fight against HIV/Aids despite the current economic turmoil which health experts say has hit the operations of most of the country’s major hospitals, including the procurement of essential drugs for people living with the pandemic.
In the last seven years, new HIV infections have fallen by 50 percent on the back of awareness and expanded treatment programmes.