ZAMBIA – Most HIV patients in African countries have lower viral suppression than those in high-income countries due to low rates of viral load testing, a study has shown.

The study done in Zambia and Malawi also confirmed that patients who got their medication after every six months instead of every three months were less likely to have complications and were stable.

The study comes at a time when many countries, Kenya being one of them, are struggling with a shortage of drugs and most hospitals are rationing the medication. Patients have reported being given the drugs for only a month or even weeks.

Kenya’s health Acting Director-General Patrick Amoth, in a directive to the counties, stated that rationing of HIV drugs is in effect due to a shortage of drugs in the country.

The directive, which is still in place dictated that patients get drugs to sustain them for only one month.

This decision was arrived at after it emerged that there were stock-outs and a taxation stalemate between the United States Agency for International Development and the Health ministry.

Currently, manufacturers are packing drugs for three months in one bottle, 90 packs, in bid to lower cost of transportation and storage. This means that when a patient picks a pack, it is enough for three months.

Patients have been complaining that hospitals are rationing their drugs as hospitals are now forced to break container seals and divide the drugs among patients.

The Zambia and Malawi research found that 18 percent of patients who received the current standard of care in clinics experienced a period of over 60 days without any antiretroviral therapy (ART) during the year of the study.

This decreased to 14 percent in patients whose appointments were every three months and to 8.5 percent, less than half the rate in those with six-monthly appointments.

The researchers concluded that the inconvenience and cost of more frequent clinic visits meant that patients were more likely to miss appointments.

Yesterday, Ghana AIDS Commission and National AIDS Control Program released a statement which revealed that the HIV/AIDS prevalence was high in one of the municipalities in the country.

Hohoe municipality had a HIV prevalence at 1.6 percent, higher than the Volta Regional prevalence of 1.5 percent.

Mr. Andrews Teddy Ofori, the Hohoe Municipal Chief Executive (MCE) said the 1.6 per cent prevalence in the Municipality was not good news and concerted efforts needed to be put in place.

He said although it was a known fact that the HIV/AIDS prevalence was high in the Municipality, the Assembly continued to put in efforts to sensitize and educate the general public on the spread, prevention and avoidance of stigmatization in respect of HIV/AIDS.

Political leaders, traditional authorities, churches, mosques, traders, workers as well as the media need to drum home the message of the reality of HIV/AIDS and its impact on productivity.

They should also emphasize on the need for testing to know one’s status, be treated and remain on Anti-Retroviral Treatment (ART) care to ensure effective viral load suppression.