HIV-positive children to take soluble ARVs

A patient prepares to take ARVs on June 8, 2017. FILE PHOTO

KAMPALA- Parents will soon find it easier to give antiretroviral (ARV) drugs to children below 10 years as scientists have started developing the drug that can be soluble in porridge and other liquids. This is planned to encourage good adherence and viral load suppression.

The study that is still at design stage comes a year after government enrolled the same category of children on sugar-coated drugs in form of pellets, which caretakers can sprinkle on children’s food.

Dr Joshua Musinguzi, the head of the HIV/Aids programme in the Ministry of Health, said the new formulations will be made in form of granules that can be crashed into powder for easier swallowing compared to the pellets, which are bigger.

“Children are suffering because they are taking different formulations of drugs,” Dr Musinguzi said in a telephone interview yesterday.

Currently, Dr Musinguzi said, children born with HIV are subjected to ARVs in form of a bitter syrup after which they are introduced to pellets at three months.

The children are then switched to tablets when they make 10 years and above, making adherence very hard, leading to poor viral load suppression.

The new formulation is also expected in a fixed dose combination of four drugs unlike the pellets, which are in a combination of only two.

Statistics by the Ministry of Health indicate that although viral load suppression to undetectable levels among adults living with HIV/Aids in the country has increased to more than 80 per cent, it is still lower in children below 15 years at about 60 per cent.

The study that is expected to take off early next year is being funded by the Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi), a non-profit drug research and development organization, that is developing new treatments, especially for neglected diseases.

Dr Olawale Salami, the DNDi clinical project manager for Paediatric HIV, said paediatric patients have been neglected for long and this was derailing the fight against HIV.

“In as much as mother-to-child transmission has reduced tremendously globally, the infected children have been left out. They cannot swallow the existing drugs and that’s why it is important to come up with the formulation,” Dr Salami told an international conference for researchers at Speke Resort Munyonyo last week.

A total of 93,679 children below 14 years are currently living with HIV/Aids in Uganda.