AIDS-HIV Cure: Experts Grow Concerned Over Treatment Failure in Kenya

(Photo: Reuters/Sukree Sukplang)An HIV-infected patient displays medicine at a hospital in Payao province, Thailand.

Local as well as international health experts have recently raised concerns over growing evidence that there is a high treatment failure of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) in Kenya.

According to The Standard, the latest findings in a recently published report by the Ministry of Health of Kenya and the United Nations mentioned "unacceptably" high failure rates in the effectiveness of antiretrovirals (ARVs) among the refugees as well as the residents of Kakuma in the northern part of Kenya.

Prepared by the Kenya Medical Research Institute (Kemri), the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the United Nations High Commissions for Refugees, the World Health Organization and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, the report revealed that the rates of drug resistance among the refugees and host community in Kakuma were as high as 64 percent.

Last April, the Ministry of Health was part of a survey that discovered the emergence of a drug-resistant HIV strain in Kenya, which could resist all available first- and second-line medications.

As for the possible reason behind the high failure rates, the report suggested that it could be due to the patients' poor drug adherence.

Although there is still no cure for HIV and acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS), the antiretrovirals are supposed to reduce the number of AIDS-causing virus in the patient's body — a process called viral suppression.

According to IOL, healthcare workers have discovered that some people have the habit of stopping their medications and defaulting on their ARVs under the mistaken notion that they have been healed, even if they are made aware that their condition is incurable.

The issue has something to do with patients receiving an "undetectable viral load" diagnosis when their ARV medication starts working, which in turn, causes the number of virus in the blood to extremely decrease. This has led some people to jump to the incorrect conclusion that the virus is no longer in their blood and that they are not required to take the treatment any longer.

Hence, patients defaulting on their ARV medications have posed a new challenge in combating HIV and AIDS.