Head of Nairobi AIDS Orphanage Warns of Growing Resistance to Drug Treatment
October 9, 2008
While HIV-infected children at the Nyumbani orphanage in Nairobi can access pediatric AIDS treatment, some face the prospect of failing already limited treatment options. Executive Director Sister Mary Owens recalled the case of one 13-year-old boy named Sammy who died after he stopped responding to AIDS drugs, and she sees in it a warning.
"If our children develop resistance, well, first of all, we're back to square one and it is a fatal disease again," Owens said. "But also, resistance builds up in our world to the drugs. They're ineffective. So, you just think 10 years down the line what it could be, the scenario could be."
Owens said some of the orphans are on second-line and even third-line AIDS drugs due to their virus growing resistant to first-line treatments.
"I am not a scientist," Owens said. "I am a mother caring for children. These are my children and I want the best for them."
The Jesuit-founded Nyumbani facility cares for thousands of children through home, village, and community programs, and many of them are taking antiretroviral drugs (ARVs). Much of its drug funding comes through the US President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief.
Owens hopes someday to be able to tailor the children's AIDS treatment by genetic testing, which can identify the ARVs best suited to combat particular HIV strains. But a genetic analyzer costs more than $50,000, and each test costs about $260, she said. "Ideally, before you ever go on ARVs, you should have a resistance test. Because now, you see, especially in the case of children, they can inherit a resistant virus."
Owens is calling on drug makers to manufacture a greater variety of pediatric AIDS drugs to combat the growing trend toward drug resistance.
Voice of America
10.06.2008; Joe DeCapua
This article was provided by U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update. Visit the CDC's website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.