For Online E-newspaper
The East African : Mar 9th 2015
The EastAfrican 38 OUTLOOK MARCH 7-13,2015 S CI E N C E Injecting drug users fuelling HIV/Aids A new ≥epo≥t says a global e≠o≥t is needed to ≥educe p≥evalence of the epidemic By EVELYN LIRRI Special Correspondent H IV infections fuelled by people who inject drugs should be tackled as part of a global effort to reduce prevalence of the epidemic, a new report says. The Global State of Harm Reduc- tion report 2014, released recently notes that new and emerging patterns of drug use in sub-Saharan African countries like Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and Senegal will require increased access to opioid substitution therapy (OST) such as methadone and buprenorphine and needle syringe programmes (NSP) for people who inject drugs. OST is a medical procedure in which an illegal substance such as heroin is replaced with a longer acting but less euphoric one. The medication works by block- ing the effects of other opioids or drugs, thereby stopping any craving for them. Methadone for example, is taken in syrup form and, therefore, prevents the risks of injecting an illicit drug of unknown quality with dirty or infected needles. “HIV infections in sub-Saharan Africa driven by drug use are a matter of concern as they are avoidable,” said Rick Lines, executive director of Harm Reduction International, who produced the report. The report estimates that the prevalence of HIV among people who inject drugs among the countries that were studied is 33.9 per cent in Tanzania, 16.7 per cent in Uganda, 18.3 per cent in Kenya and 9.1 per cent in Senegal. “Moreover, because of the geo- graphical location of countries such as Tanzania and Zanzibar along key transit points for the trafficking of heroin, cocaine and other drugs, ART The Global State of Harm Reduction report 2014 notes that: In 2012, there were an estimated 6.9 million adults receiving ART in sub-Saharan Africa, representing 60 per cent of those living with HIV. Available data shows that in many African countries, less than one per cent of HIV-positive people who inject drugs are on ARV treatment. Globally, only four per cent of drug users living with HIV receive antiretroviral therapy. “HIV infections driven by drug use are a matter of concern as they are avoidable.” Rick Lines, executive director at Harm Reduction International there is increased availability of these drugs in this part of the region,” the authors noted. In Uganda, the risk of HIV trans- mission through injection drug use is not a major threat, according to Anthony Mbonye, director of clinical and community services at Uganda’s Ministry of Health. Drug addicts in New Delhi prepare a fix on November 29, 2012. Pic: AFP “But if we do a study and estab- lish that the contribution of this group to HIV transmission is as high as the other factors, we shall draw appropriate interventions,” said Prof Mbonye. The Global State of Harm Reduc- tion report says that while there has been a significant effort to reduce the risk of infection from injection use in some countries, it has not grown in proportion to the HIV epidemic among people who inject drugs. It adds that a scale-up of such in- terventions will be a critical part of a global effort to end the HIV epidemic. In Tanzania for example, where the number of people who inject drugs is highest in the East African region, the government has established seven sites where people can access safe syringes. The country has also set up three community-based OST programmes, with over 1,200 people who inject drugs receiving the methadone medication. However, many people who inject drugs are still missing out on lifesaving antiretroviral therapy. “The limited services in the re- gion, coupled with the criminalisation of drug use and minor possession, do little to reduce HIV risks faced by people who inject drugs,” the authors noted in the report. Lack of funding also remains a big challenge in funding HIV prevention services among people who inject drugs. The Joint United Nations Pro- gramme on HIV/Aids (UNAids) estimates that $2.3 billion is required annually for such prevention programmes. In 2012, the report says, only about $160 million was invested by international donors, approximately seven per cent of what is required. “In Uganda, funding for harm reduction has generally been viewed as a low priority by the government, although there has been an increased focus from donor NGOs,” the report said. It further notes that barriers to seeking medical help among people who inject drugs include legal and policy issues and social stigma. “This can force people who in- ject drugs to hide injecting equipment and engage in unsafe injecting practices,” the report notes. Coming soon: Low-cost gene≥ic ARVs fo≥ child≥en By CHRISTABEL LIGAMI Special Correspondent CHILDREN LIVING with HIV in developing countries will soon have access to low-cost antiretroviral treatments. The non-profit organisation Medicine Patent Pool (MPP) has signed a licensing agreement with Merck Pharmaceutical for the development of generic formulations of the latter’s antiretroviral drugs. Merck Pharmaceutical will now produce and sell low-cost versions of the paediatric raltegravir or RAL, targeting babies and children from the age of four weeks to 12 years, ahead of the drug’s patent expiration in 2022. The drugs will be sold in 92 low- and middle-income countries including the East African countries. Middle-income countries like India and South Africa, where HIV incidence rates are still high, are also on the list. An estimated 3.2 million children were living with HIV at the end of 2013, mostly in sub-Saharan Africa. but only 760,000 received ARV treatment in 2013. MPP, established in 2010 under the aegis of the World Health Organisation and UNITAid, works to lower the cost of medicines for HIV and Aids, tuberculosis and malaria through an innovative mechanism that encourages brand holders to allow access to their patents by others under a pool. Studies have shown that RAL is effective in slowing the spread of HIV in the body, bringing the virus down to undetectable levels. While the drug has been approved for use by adults and children, access has been problematic because of supply constraints and high costs. In richer countries, RAL is available for $5,000 per patient per year. Humanitarian groups can obtain the drug at a lower price of $1,000 per patient per year. “The high cost of the drug has made it diffi- cult for countries and organisations to scale up treatment of HIV,” said Sobbie Mulindi, deputy director of the Kenya National Aids Control Council. “We expect the prices to go down by at least 50 per cent and this will create greater access to these medicines, which will potentially reduce illnesses and deaths related to paediatric HIV and Aids.” The deal provides MPP a new drug to add to its portfolio of ARV treatments, and comes two months after MPP struck a similar licensing agreement with AbbVie for the paediatric versions of its lopinavir and ritonavir Aids drugs. New research shows coffee could prevent clogged arteries. Pic: File Activists push for Aids drugs for healthy gays Healthy gay men should be offered daily HIV drugs to prevent infections, say campaigners. A UK study of 545 high-risk men found one case of HIV could be stopped for every 13 men treated for a year. The research team says it would be similar to the pill for women and would not encourage risky sex. The findings have been described as a “game changer” in the fight against HIV. BRIEFS $10.7m forensic lab unveiled in Nairobi The Kenyan government has launched a human identification DNA laboratory in Nairobi — the first-ever regional medical culture media production line. The facility, which cost $10.7 million, will supplement the country’s national capacity to conduct human DNA identification and boost its disaster victim identification. After the terror attack on the Westgate shopping in Nairobi in 2013, for example, samples from identified victims had to be taken abroad for identification. 65 new hybrid seeds to boost yields in Tanzania The Tanzanian government has approved and launched over 65 hybrid seed varieties said to be high yielding, drought-tolerant and disease-resistant, with the aim of boosting agriculture in the country. The newly-approved hybrid seed varieties cover 11 types of produce namely maize, sorghum, wheat, cassava, sugarcane, cotton, pigeon peas, legumes, sesame, cashewnuts and tobacco, and will be available to farmers from next year. They will help increase productivity and farmers’ income across the country in the wake of global warming and climate change. Coffee could keep heart disease away - study Drinking a few cups of coffee a day may help people avoid clogged arteries — a risk factor for heart disease — Korean researchers believe. They studied more than 25,000 male and female employees who underwent routine health checks at their workplace. Employees who drank a moderate amount of coffee — three to five cups a day — were less likely to have early signs of heart disease on their medical scans. Some studies have linked consumption of coffee to heart risk factors such as raised cholesterol or blood pressure, while others suggest the beverage may offer some heart protection.
Mar 1st 2015
Mar 16th 2015