HIV disease can be managed by treatment regimens composed of a combination of three or more antiretroviral (ARV) drugs.
Current antiretroviral therapy (ART) does not cure HIV infection but highly suppresses viral replication within a person’s body and allows an individual’s immune system recovery to strengthen and regain the capacity to fight off opportunistic infections and some cancers.
Since 2016, World Health Organization (WHO) has recommended that all people living with HIV be provided with lifelong ART, including children, adolescents, adults and pregnant and breastfeeding women, regardless of clinical status or CD4 cell count.
A new study has shown that adherence to the ARV drugs is essential in epidemic control. The study dubbed U =U, an abbreviation for Undetectable equals Untramsittable is a campaign borne on solid research to encourage and empower people living with HIV to start and stay on treatment to leave behind the shame, stigma and fear of sexual transmission that many people still face.
Although an undetectable viral load does not imply a cure for people living with HIV, it does have a positive impact on individual health and prevents transmission. Since 2016, the Prevention Access Campaign has promoted U=U to spread awareness that people with undetectable viral load can’t transmit HIV to their sexual partners, offering couples more peace of mind.
According Daniel Oneya, a medical officer in Migori county in charge of HIV/ Aids control, the new approach has help in reducing the county’s prevalence rate from 14.7% in 2018 to 11.8% (According to a recent report released by National AIDS and STIs Control Programme (NASCOP).Mr. Oneya added that the U=U approach, combined with recency testing, can be effective in managing HIV/ AIDS in high incidence counties namely Nairobi, Kisumu, Siaya, Migori, Homabay and Busia.Dr. Momanyi Momanyi, NASCOP technical advisor said that out of 1.2 million people on Arv therapy, they have managed to suppress the virus in 93% of the patients.
Momanyi said that the U=U campaign which was launched in the country in September and rolled out in all the counties to identify champions who’ve achieved the viral suppression target.Elias Okal, a HIV/Aids mentor based in homabay on his side believes that recency testing should be embraced by all, counties.
A recency test is a laboratory-based test that detects whether an HIV infection is recent (less than six months) or not. The incorporation of HIV recency testing in national HIV case reporting systems will help to assess how HIV is being transmitted, describe behavior’s that are facilitating HIV transmission and optimize HIV-related data collection and information on risk factors.
By Basil Okoth