Rumphi District Senior Nutrition, HIV and AIDS Officer, Blessings Kanyangale has urged stakeholders in the health sector to scale-up community awareness meetings on the importance for people living with HIV and AIDS to adhere to Anti-Retroviral Therapy (ART) treatment.
Kanyangale said on Monday that Rumphi District Health Office has noted that ART default rate is on the increase in the district, a development he feared could result in increased new HIV infections in the district.
“When people living with HIV and AIDS default from taking Anti-Retroviral drugs (ARVs), chances are high that we may have new infections as the virus develops resistance to the drugs thereby making it difficult to prevent the spread of the virus,” Kanyangale said.
He therefore appealed for concerted efforts in raising awareness on the side effects of failing to adhere to ART.
Member of Mhuju Support Group, Bernard Mbale, said most people default ART treatment due to lack of privacy in some health facilities.
“Most of HIV Testing and Counseling (HTC) rooms are close to Out-Patient Department (OPD) and maternity wards and compromises privacy of people living with HIV and AIDS,” said Mbale.
Mbale also attributed the challenge to inadequate knowledge of Health Surveillance Assistants (HSAs) on how to trace and handle defaulters.
In his response to the issues, Rumphi District Health Office Spokesperson, Bwanalori Mwamulima said he would engage Health Centre Advisory Committees (HCACs) to address all issues concerning privacy of ART clients in the concerned health facilities.
This problem also happens in South Africa in Gauteng province where more than 4,000 HIV/AIDS patients have defaulted on antiretroviral (ARV) treatment.
Health MEC Hope Papo revealed in response to a question in the Gauteng legislature on Tuesday that 4410 people had defaulted, said Democratic Alliance Gauteng health spokesman Jack Bloom.
Papo gave the major reasons for default as stigma, discrimination, and denial.
Some HIV-positive mothers failed to give their babies Nevirapine to prevent infection. Other people gave false addresses or returned to other provinces or countries.
“It is disturbing that so many people default on Aids treatment, as this leads to ARV resistance and the need for expensive alternative treatment,” Bloom said.
“While some factors are outside the department’s control, every effort should be made to ensure that Aids patients take their medicine,” he said.