People living with HIV/Aids are complaining of opportunistic infections since they were discontinued from using Septrin (cotrimoxazole) as part of their medication.
One of the patients said when she was taken off Septrin, she developed flu and malaria and that this has been affecting her since.
“I was off Septrin for three months. In the second month, I got malaria and it affected me badly. After malaria, I got severe flu and cough. It was terrible. I had to ask the doctor to put me back on Septrin,” she said in an interview yesterday.
Septrin is a drug used in anti-retroviral therapy. Unlike antiretroviral drugs (ARVs) that inhibit the multiplication of the Aids causing virus, Septrin is a combination of antibiotics that fights opportunistic infections that people living with HIV are vulnerable to, until their viral load drops to particular level.
Last year, the Ministry of Health issued new guidelines where people living with HIV/Aids were to stop taking Septrin as a complementary drug for fighting opportunistic infections such as malaria, diarrhoea and pneumonia.
The ministry said the guidelines followed a research by scientists from both the ministry and Uganda Virus Research Institute, which found evidence that Septrin was no longer necessary for people whose viral load had been significantly suppressed and were stable on ARV drugs.
“They (researchers) came up with a category of the newly enrolled individuals on treatment. Pregnant women and infected children below 15 years need and should continue with the medicine (Septrin). But these others — above 15, not pregnant, have been on drugs for years and are stable — we are wasting resources,” Dr Joshua Musinguzi, the head of HIV/Aids programme at the Ministry of Health, told a media breakfast meeting last year.
The patients say given the poor conditions and low standards of living that most of them, it is difficult for them to afford all meals a day and are living with a lot of stress and pressure, which makes them prone to opportunistic infections yet the medical workers no longer carry out the CD4 count.
“For the past 10 years, I had never fallen sick when I was taking Septrin. I would get cough but it was not bad. People living with HIV live in terrible conditions. They can afford only one meal a day. They are stressed about many things,” one of the patients said.
Another person, aged 34, living with HIV who only identified herself as Sylvia, said since she was taken off Septrin, she has experienced changes on her body and developed bleached lips.
Dr Eddie Mukooyo Sefuluya, the chairman of Uganda Aids Commission (UAC) explained that taking people off Septrin is not the problem but lack of information is.