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Asian children show HIV drug resistance

6th December 2011

Around 160,000 children and teenagers in Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, Cambodia, Indonesia, and India, are beginning to show early signs of osteoporosis as result of HIV treatment.

hiv spreading

Children as young as five are also beginning to show resistance to drugs used to treat AIDS, according to a recent study by researchers at TREAT Asia, a network of clinics, hospitals, and researchers.

While basic AIDS treatments are increasingly available across southeast Asia and in India, newer, improved medicines are difficult to acquire.

Such medicines may be available or government-subsidised in Europe or the US, but are very expensive elsewhere.

According to UNICEF, of the 160,000 HIV-positive children in southeast Asia and India, 57,000 require treatment, but only 30,000 were receiving it as of January 2009.

Children who develop resistance to older-generation of AIDS medicines will need newer drugs in order to help them cope with the effects of the disease.

Annette Sohn, director of TREAT Asia, said that 14% of the children her organisation studied failed in first-line drug treatments, and that some of those children were under the age of five.

Part of the reason why so many children who require AIDS drugs develop resistance may have to do with the fact that there are not many formulations of AIDS drugs for children.

Children thus take higher-than-necessary doses, and develop resistance quicker than they otherwise might.

Sohn said that nearly all clinics and hospitals initially made some mistakes in their management of patients with HIV by using adult tablets to treat children.

She said that, unless countries could develop access to third-line AIDS treatments, patients would start to be totally resistant to any available treatment.

TREAT Asia has carried out a number of studies that explore the development of drug-resistance in HIV-positive teenagers.

Sohn said that, in one study, X-rays showed that teenagers who were about 16 years old had already developed low bone mass, which the researchers believe is partly due to the effects of HIV on the body.

A larger, long-term study confirmed that an abnormally high percentage of HIV-positive teenagers in southeast Asia and India had developed low bone mineral density.

Sohn said that the changes in bone density may also be due to toxic effects from some AIDS drugs, such as tenofovir.

She said she felt it was necessary to study what drug doses would suppress the HIV while not being toxic to the body.



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