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First-line HIV/AIDS Treatment For Cameroon Not Effective – Expert 

By Leocadia Bongben — Prof. Carlo-Federico Perno, Head of Molecular Virology, University of Rome “Tor Vergata”, has submitted that patients in the N and O HIV/AIDS groups are not sensitive to anti-retroviral drugs.

This means that first line HIV/AIDS treatment typical of Cameroon is not effective. Prof. Perno made the statement during the 4th CHAIN International workshop on long term management of HIV/AIDS that held at the Chantal Biya International Reference Centre for Research on Prevention and Management of HIV/AIDS, CIRCB, over the weekend.

CHAIN is a large-scale project to effectively combat new and existing anti-HIV drug resistance in clinical setting with special emphasis on Eastern Europe and in heavily affected resource-poor regions in Africa. Talking about HIV diversity, he said there is a huge amount of resistance among different HIV/AIDS strands in Cameroon.

“There are many strands even though one is dominant, the sub type AG,” he added.
The Chair of CIRCB maintained that from a treatment stand point, the difference in strands is not so much as long as the strands belong to the same group M. But, if the strands belong to the group N and O group it makes a difference because they are not sensitive to antiretroviral drugs.

“This means the first line of treatment typical of Cameroon is not effective,” Perno said.
He recommended that diagnostic of the kind of strand in a certain patient is tested ahead before the treatment starts. Perno suggested that due to the difference in strands, it may be very difficult to develop a vaccine. The Yaounde workshop as a solution to drug resistance among others discussed the use of viral load in clinical practice and introducing the resistance testing.

“Resistance test is already done in clinical practice in many parts of the world but, very expensive in other parts,” said Perno. This is a test that evaluates the resistance, lets the laboratory and the technician to know if the patient has developed resistance to a certain drug and selects the best drug to be used in a certain patient. 

Resistance test is already done at the CIRCB and another centre in Yaounde with experts and Government working to make the test accessible to patients, Perno stated. For his part, Prof. Vittorio Colizzi, UNESCO Chair in Biotechnology, said there is a possibility that if prevention of transmission from mother to child does not work well, the HIV virus can be transmitted to the child.

As such, it is important to put in place an effective follow-up system to ensure that children do not develop resistance. He cautioned that it is important to avoid putting the mother on treatment that is not working because the children can equally develop resistance. Up to now, the resistance rate in Cameroon is still low, but with the increasing number of people on treatment these past years there are fears that resistance is likely to be high.

He said the work done at CIRCB on resistance with qualified trained doctors abroad, in Europe and US, is putting the centre on the way to becoming one of the best. A participant from DR Congo, Dr. Faustin Kitetelehe, said he learnt a lot first about HIV/AIDS co-infections with Hepatitis in children and resistance especially in a resource-limited country like Congo. Compared to his country, he said the resistance test is not yet done in DR Congo.

First published in The Post print edition no 01497

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