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More Zimbabweans Need ARV Therapy Following WHO Treatment Protocol Change


The new WHO guidelines say ARV drug therapy, also known as ART, should be initiated when the CD4 blood cell count of a patient falls to 350 from a normal range of 500-15,000, expanding the pool of candidates

New World Health Organization protocols as to when persons who are HIV positive should begin a regimen of antiretroviral drug therapy has translated into a sharp increase in the number of Zimbabweans considered to be in need of such therapy, from 350,000 before the new protocol to an estimated 570,000.

Some 270,000 Zimbabweans, including children, are now receiving antiretroviral drug therapy.

The new WHO guidelines say ARV drug therapy, also known as ART, should be initiated when the CD4 blood cell count of a patient falls to 350 from a normal range of 500-15,000. Previous protocols called for ART only when a patient's CD4 blood count had fallen to 200.

Dr. Tapuwa Magure, chief executive of Zimbabwe's National Aids Council, told VOA Studio 7 reporter Sandra Nyaira that with new protocols in place, considerably increased resources are needed.

"There are many advantages that are associated with commencing treatment earlier because it saves one from being attacked by several opportunistic infections," said Dr Magure. "So we are really happy but we need to talk more with our many partners to see if we can raise more resources because we will need more CD4 kits, testing equipment and all - that is is the major implication of the new regulations."

Dr. Magure said organisations fighting HIV will need to revise targets as they seek increased financial resources to scale up the provision of ARVs to the additional population now considered to require them.

But determining the CD4 cell count is problematic in Zimbabwe, where the machines for readings are scarce. Most Zimbabwean doctors use so-called clinical assessment, based on patient condition and symptoms.

HIV expert Dr. Samukeliso Dube told VOA Studio 7 reporter Brenda Moyo how the clinical assessment method is used to determine when ARV therapy is required in the absence of a CD4 cell count.

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