Improving Adherence to AntiRetrovirals in Nigeria

Even though HIV doesn’t pose a great threat to human lives anymore as it was some years back, its prevalence continues to hang on the necks of the population at large especially in Sub-Saharan Africa.

The number of people living with HIV in Nigeria has increased from 1.9 million since 2016 to 3.1 million in 2017 with a little reduction in the number of new infections from 220,000 to 210,000, as well as AIDS-related deaths.

However, a small proportion of these people are being treated on antiretroviral therapy- 34% of adults and 26% of children respectively. This number needs to increase considerably if we wish to work towards an HIV-free future.

Adherence to ARV Treatment

Adhering to The ARV treatment can be a struggle sometimes because it is taken orally, every day, in the form of a combination of tablets, and people sometimes simply get tired, forget or do not want to be associated with the stigma of HIV, or side-effects of the medications.

However, it is critical to understand and know that ARVs are only effective when taken correctly. Otherwise, patients stand the risk of building up drug resistance and the drugs become useless.

Research has also shown that for every 10% increase in treatment coverage there is a 1% decline in the percentage of new infections among people living with HIV.

Ensuring Drug Compliance

A plausible solution to the issue of non-adherence could be the use of a medication reminder application for smartphones. In recent years, there has been a thrive in the use of smartphones in Africa, it is becoming easier for the population to access all the features that come with a smartphone.

MyTherapy is a medication and health tracker app that can be used by people living with HIV. The app, which is downloadable for free on both iOS and Android, is a useful and practical tool that encourages and helps its users to take their medication responsibly.

The main purpose of the app is to promote adherence by consistently reminding users to take their medication until they have done so, however, it also comes with a variety of other useful features such as a lab-values feature which can help HIV-positive patients track their viral load and CD4 count which they can later download in the health Report feature and discuss with their doctors.

Conclusion

HIV/AIDS has claimed so many lives in the past decades and now, there have been quite some remarkable breakthroughs -the rate of infections and deaths have fallen drastically, which implies that ARV medications working well.

As long as ARV medications are taken properly and responsibly, with the help continuous research, then the world at large and Africa will continue to see a reduction in the virus’ incidence, prevalence and death rates for an HIV-free future.

References

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Omiete Charles-Davies, MBBS

Dr. Omiete Charles-Davies graduated from the University of Lagos with a degree in medicine and surgery. He is a licensed medical doctor and has worked in different private and government-owned hospitals as a general medical practitioner. For fun, he loves to travel and experience new cultures.