More widespread use of antiretroviral drugs (ARVs) to treat HIV infection has led to drug resistance in low- and middle-income countries, but the level "is not steep enough to cause alarm, said a survey released by the World Health Organization on Wednesday," Agence France-Presse reports. "In low- and middle-income countries, drug resistance stood at 6.8 percent in 2010, the WHO said in its first-ever report on the matter," the news agency writes, adding, "High-income countries, many of which began widescale treatment for HIV years earlier and used single or dual therapies that can also encourage resistance, face higher rates of resistance, from eight to 14 percent, said the study" (Sheridan, 7/18).
According to a WHO press release, "Some degree of HIV drug resistance is generally expected to occur due to natural mutations in the virus; but most cases of drug resistance are caused by preventable factors such as treatment interruptions and patients taking medicines incorrectly." The health agency "recommends that every clinic providing antiretroviral treatment should use a set of 'early warning indicators' to identify and address factors that could cause drug resistance," including "adherence to treatment; the type of medicines used; continuity of drug supply; the extent to which patients continue to access services," as well as an increase in a patient's viral load, the press release notes (7/18). In a separate press release, the WHO said it will "compile a new, consolidated set of recommendations related to the use of ARVs for both HIV treatment and prevention" over the next year, in order to provide countries with clinical, programmatic and operational guidance so they can make the most effective and strategic use of ARVs" (7/18).