New HIV drug launched

THE Ministry of Health and Child Care has started rolling out Dolutegravir (DTG), a new antiretroviral drug which is more effective in viral suppression and has fewer side effects. 

New HIV patients were the first to benefit from the nationwide roll out which started in September this year. 

Dolutegravir is an antiretroviral drug used to treat HIV infection and is more tolerable to patients, meaning it has lesser side effects compared to other ARVs. It is used as part of combination therapy for the treatment of HIV and works by reducing the ability of the virus to make copies of itself. 

HIV, Aids and TB director in the Ministry Dr Owen Mugurungi said all eligible HIV positive patients were now able to access DTG effective from November this year. 

About 1,4 million people are living with HIV in Zimbabwe and statistics show that 90 percent are on treatment

I can confirm that we have started rolling out DTG and the medicines have started coming in. We started in September and in October when we were rolling it out to new clients, those who would have tested HIV positive for the first time,” said Dr Mugurungi. 

“Effective from November 1 this year, we will then start rolling it out to patients who are already receiving medication and we will take into cognisance the viral load so the medication is effective.” 

He said clients who qualify for DTG will be those who have been responding well to medication. 

 “We will switch clients whose viral load is undetectable or repressed so that the medication works. We will also consider those people whose viral load was at any point undetectable in the past six months hence we encourage people who haven’t gone for viral load screening to go for such services,” said Dr Mugurungi. 

He said the switching process will not be compulsory. 

“The process will not be mandatory as people are free to say they do not want DTG. However, through support from media we would like members of the public to know that DTG is a new drug which has been proven to be highly effective in suppressing HIV hence they are free to switch to it,” said Dr Mugurungi.

He said said the roll out would be in all sectors and facilities where people are able to do a viral load screening. 

Viral suppression is the ability to prevent the HIV virus from multiplying in the body and Zimbabwe has a target to ensure that 90 percent of people living with HIV achieve that by 2020.