Sudan commences use of Dolutegravir as new treatment for HIV patients

SUDAN – The Federal Ministry of Health (FMoH), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), World Health Organization (WHO) and partners have commenced the roll-out of a new HIV treatment in Sudan, supported by the Global Fund.

On the World Health Organization’s List of Essential Medicines, antiretroviral (ARV) drug ‘Dolutegravir’ is recommended as the preferred treatment for all populations, based on its effectiveness and fewer side effects compared to alternative drug currently in use.

The WHO made Dolutegravir a preferred HIV treatment option for all populations in 2019. DTG also has a high genetic barrier to developing drug resistance, which is important given the rising trend of resistance to EFV and nevirapine-based regimens.

In 2019, 12 out of 18 countries surveyed by WHO reported pre-treatment drug resistance levels exceeding the recommended threshold of 10%.

Since then, 82 low- and middle-income countries reported to be transitioning to DTG-based HIV treatment regimens. The new updated recommendations aim to help more countries improve their HIV policies.

Following the adoption of the WHO treatment guidelines by the FMoH, the medication is being introduced at all 42 HIV treatment centres nationwide.

The rollout has been accompanied by FMoH, UNDP, WHO and UNAIDS-supported training for healthcare staff, and improvements to individual patient monitoring.

The new medication is part of WHO’s recommended treatment guidelines and will help the 46,000 people estimated to be living with HIV in Sudan. The rollout was initially planned for 2020, however due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it was delayed.

Planned for nationwide deployment in phases over the next three years, the first phase expects to have 45% of current antiretroviral treatment recipients transitioned to the new medication by the end of the year.

In the second, planned for 2022, enrolment is expected to reach 75% of those living with HIV, growing to 90% by 2023.

According to UNAIDS, the HIV epidemic in Sudan is classified as a low epidemic with adult (15-49 years) HIV prevalence of less than 0.3% according to the 2016 estimates and projections.

However, Sudan is bordered by seven countries in which HIV/AIDS is highly prevalent, therefore Sudan is susceptible to an increase in HIV/AIDS prevalence.

In 2020, There were approximately 37.6 million people across the globe with HIV in 2020. Of these, 35.9 million were adults and 1.7 million were children. An estimated 1.5 million individuals worldwide acquired HIV in 2020.

There were 20.6 million people with HIV (55%) in eastern and southern Africa and 4.7 million (13%) in western and central Africa.

As of the end of 2020, 27.4 million people with HIV (73%) were accessing antiretroviral therapy (ART) globally.

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