New HIV treatment regimen introduced in Zimbabwe

Garikai Chaunza, CNS Correspondent, Zimbabwe
(First published in New Zimbabwe
The government of Zimbabwe is, with effect from January 2015, switching all people on HIV treatment to a new daily regimen of one tablet per day from the current three pills a day treatment to make it easier for patients to not miss out on taking their medication. The new single tablet is a fixed dose combination of three drugs (Tenofovir, Lamivudine and Efavirenz-TLE), a departure from the previous complicated treatment of taking three different tablets-- namely Tenofovir, Lovovidine and Nevirapine (TLN).

The government estimates that currently 1.3 million people in Zimbabwe are living with HIV, of which 187 000 are children under the age of 15 years. Out of the total estimated HIV positive population, half of them are receiving the approved treatment. HIV prevalence currently stands at 15% in the country--down from over 27% in 1997, with 500 000 people said to have lost their lives to HIV related illnesses over the past 16 years.

“As I speak, we are at a stage where we have adequate stocks of the single dose tablets and this should be available to everybody and we are hoping that everyone who has been on TLN can now switch to the new TLE,” Head of HIV and TB unit in the Health and Child Care Ministry, Dr Owen Mugurungi, said in an interview.

Dr Mugurungi said the previous treatment was complicated and forced many to become irregular with treatment. He explained: “The disadvantage of the TLN was that these were two separate packs of medicines and you were taking two different drugs, two in the morning and one in the evening and, of course, there were challenges in distributing these medicines. The more tablets you distribute the more complicated it is and the more likely it becomes that you might forget to take all the doses or one of the tablets might go missing. But when you have one single tablet which is all the medicine that you need then it becomes easier and more feasible for you to achieve the maximum viral suppression that we want.”

Zimbabwe fell short of its target of putting 840, 000 people living with HIV on treatment by 90, 000. But Dr Mugurungi expressed confidence that the system was getting more efficient and manageable.
(First published in New Zimbabwe)  

Garikai Chaunza, Citizen News Service - CNS
4 January 2015