Raltegravir, an integrase inhibitor, is used by people living with HIV that are on third-line treatment. It is administered as a tablet, chewable tablet, and as granules for oral suspension, prescribed for decreasing chances of developing Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS) and HIV-related illnesses such as serious infections or cancer.
HIV Activists have made an outcry about shortages of an
expensive HIV drug; Raltegravir, which is recommended for decreasing the amount of HIV in the blood.
Raltegravir, an integrase inhibitor, is
used by people living with HIV that are on third-line treatment. It is administered as a tablet, chewable tablet, and as granules for oral suspension, prescribed for decreasing chances of
developing Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS) and HIV-related
illnesses such as serious infections or cancer.
But, the drug has not been available
in the selected centres for up to a month, according to Moses Nsubuga, a renowned HIV activist. Nsubuga who is also on third-line treatment says
for fear of interrupting their treatment outcomes, some of them have had to part with as much as 700,000 Shillings to buy the medicine from private pharmacies.
He says because of being consistently on treatment he has
been able to become undetectable and has not transmitted infection to his wife
he has lived with for the last 16 years. This phenomenon is now being promoted
as U=U where activists are pushing it to mean Undetectable = Un Transmittable.
//Cue in; “For you U…
Cue out…Four different tins.”//
About a thousand people are on third-line treatment which
they start using after developing resistance to the common first-line drugs and
the second-line medicines. Raltegravir is taken in combination with other antiretroviral drugs.
While the rest can be
accessed for free in hospitals and clinics around the country, third-line
treatments are offered at selected centres including at TASO
and Makerere University John- Hopkins University (MUJHU) Research collaboration
in Mulago Hospital complex in addition to the Joint Clinical Research Center (JCRC)
along Entebbe road.
When contacted, the facilities couldn’t offer information
about their stocks but Nsubuga worries that many of his colleagues who can’t
afford to buy the medicine are not taking their daily medicine.
Dr Stephen Watiti who has cared for people living with HIV
at Mildmay Uganda says because about 0.1 per cent of the 1.4 million Ugandans living
with HIV are on the third line, their treatments are not prioritized and are often
expensive for the government to procure. He says the shortage could be a result of the fact that
there’s little demand and production is made in smaller quantities.
//Cue in; ”People make medicine…
Cue out…reduce on it.”//
He urges people on treatment to swallow their medicines as
recommended in order not to progress to the often unaffordable third-line treatment.