Paidamoyo Chipunza, Harare Bureau
GOVERNMENT has deferred the national rollout of dolutegravir, an anti-retroviral drug, to adolescent girls and women of child-bearing age, following reports from Botswana that the drug was associated with birth deformities in infants born to HIV-positive mothers taking the drug at the time of conception.
Zimbabwe intended to scale up dolutegravir (DTG) as a first choice ARV to all people living with HIV in the country next year.
The drug is currently being used to manage HIV in people living with HIV who fail to respond or complicate from the first and/or second ARV choices.
In a statement yesterday, the Health and Child Care Ministry said adolescents and women of child bearing age currently taking dolutegravir (DTG) should immediately report to their nearest health facilities for further advice and counselling.
According to the Ministry, a total of 200 people living with HIV were taking DTG as a third line drug, from which 108 of them were women.
The Ministry said since the current complications were reported in adolescents and women of child bearing age only, Government will continue switching to DTG on a national level in 2019 as a first option (first line) as initially planned, to the rest of the population.
“Ministry would want to inform our partners and the public that the potential safety issues raised in the WHO statement affect only women living with HIV of child bearing age using DTG, and not the rest of the population. Therefore, Ministry still plans a transition to DTG later in 2019 for the rest of the population. “Ministry will defer the transition to DTG for women living with HIV of child-bearing age, who intend to fall pregnant, until these safety issues have been addressed,” reads part the statement. “These women (of child-bearing age) will continue to take efavorenz-based regimens as a safe and effective first line regimen until further data is available,” further reads the statement.