THERE is a worrying trend of defaulters by people on life-long medication. When one starts life-long medication they are counselled and get in-depth explanation of what the medication does and the response and why it has to be taken for life.
This is usually for patients with high blood pressure (hypertension), diabetes mellitus (usually known commonly as sugar diabetes), any viral infection e.g. meningitis and people with a weakened immune system due to HIV infection.
For the above conditions, stopping medication without the doctor’s advice is usually fatal. For hypertension, the blood pressure is controlled to acceptable levels by medication which has to be taken regularly and consistently.
For diabetes mellitus, the sugar levels are also maintained to acceptable levels by taking medication again.
For viral infection, the effect is that when one stops taking medication, the virus mutates, meaning it multiples and that is dangerous as it gets to a stage where that same medication will no longer be effective. For anyone who has defaulted on medication, don’t restart on the old medication, rather take it to the doctor and explain what happened. The old medication will be stopped while new and stronger medication is prescribed.
But at what cost is the next line of medication prescribed and does the patient pay from his/her pocket or is on the Government programme where they get free anti-retroviral therapy (ART)? Of the 1,6 million people living with HIV virus in Zimbabwe, 870 000 are on the Government programme with the rest waiting to be initiated when funds permit. So reckless behaviour where one is catered by for by the State and is on first line therapy should be abhorred by right thinking citizens.
First line ART costs from $15 to $28 in most private pharmacies locally. So this can mean that PLHIV gets State-assisted ART at a cost of $10 a month.
When one defaults and needs to be placed on highly efficacious therapy, the cost is high. Second line ARVs cost above $150 to $200 a month. That is an annual supply for a person on first-line therapy. Third line therapy which is used when second-line fails is not readily available and the cost is prohibitive. So before rushing to place a defaulter on second-line medication, it is imperative to know that they have understood the dangers they are placing themselves in and why it would be difficult to manage them in future.
A patient who has first-line medication failing and requires second-line therapy is in a different category because they did not default, but had treatment failure to a number of other issues.
Sebastian Chinhaire of Zimbabwe National Network of People Living with HIV noted with concern the upward trend of people on life-long medication who have defaulted in the past two to four years.
“It is worrying to note that in the past two to four years we have witnessed a significant number of PLHIV stopping medication after being motivated by faith healers, pastors, prophets, n’angas and many more selling dubious products,” said Chinhaire at an awareness programme held in Rimuka, Kadoma by PAPWC Zimbabwe.
Anyone who claims to have a cure for HIV is lying and is doing progress achieved in the HIV and Aids field a disservice. The ‘by your faith you are healed’ wild card should never be listened to and anyone who hears such words from their pastor must run away fast with their life.
Life-long treatment can only be stopped when advised to do so by a qualified medical practitioner, no one else.