Image: Burnet Instiute Head of Life Sciences, Professor Gilda Tachedjian
HIV drug resistance in sub-Saharan Africa is growing and poses a serious threat to UNAIDS targets to help end the AIDS epidemic, according to Burnet research to be presented to the Solutions for Drug-Resistant Infections Conference (SDRI) in Brisbane.
Burnet’s Head of Life Sciences, Professor Gilda Tachedjian, who will be presenting at the SDRI session on alternate therapies, said failures in monitoring and adherence are important factors in the growth of resistance to first-line HIV therapies in low- and middle-income countries.
“Drug resistance to HIV in these countries is a real threat, and could impact on the advances of antiretroviral drugs that have been used for HIV treatment and prevention,” Professor Tachedjian said.
“There’s been a roll-out of antiretroviral therapies in those countries, which is important because it’s life saving. But unlike countries such as Australia and the US, they don’t have the infrastructure where they can monitor patients for viral load, for example.
“It’s a particular problem in sub-Saharan Africa, where pre-treatment HIV drug resistance is at or above 10 percent amongst antiretroviral (ARV) naïve individuals starting ARV therapy, which is an important threshold and a major threat to the UN AIDS 90-90-90 goals of ending HIV by 2030.
“If you are taking drugs where your virus isn’t controlled, that’s a recipe for generating drug resistant virus, and that’s what’s happening.”
Professor Tachedjian will outline potential therapies that could be developed to prevent HIV infection in women as an adjunct to antiretroviral therapies. She said adolescent girls and young women in sub-Saharan Africa, in particular, stand to benefit from these treatments.
“Statistics show that adolescent girls and young women in sub-Saharan Africa are eight times more likely to be infected with HIV than their male counterparts,” Professor Tachedjian said.
“The focus on women is that they’re highly vulnerable to HIV. Globally, almost 50 percent of individuals who are HIV infected are women, and the biggest burden is in Sub-Saharan Africa, particularly adolescent girls and young women.”
Also presenting at SDRI 2017 will be Burnet Program Director, Disease Elimination, Associate Professor Heidi Drummer, at the session on vector control and vaccines to explore new perspectives on prevention as a strategy to reducing drug-resistant infections.
SDRI 2017, which runs from April 3-5, is a multi-disciplinary scientific conference for the Asia-Pacific region focused on Solutions for Drug-Resistant Infections.