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Clues to ensuring anti-HIV drugs are taken in Africa
Date:10/22/2007

DURHAM, N.C. HIV-infected patients in the African country of Tanzania were more likely to stop taking their medications and to fail treatment if they had to pay for the drugs themselves.

According the results of a new study conducted by Tanzanian physicians and Duke University Medical Center researchers, HIV-infected patients who openly discussed their illness were also more likely to fare better.

Our findings suggest that efforts to provide free medication to HIV-infected patients and to promote social coping may increase the chances that patients will continue taking their medications and therefore have stronger immune systems and live longer, said Habib Ramadhani, M.D., physician at the Kilimanjaro Christian Medical Centre and lead author of a paper appearing early online in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases. Infectious disease specialists from Duke collaborate with the Kilimanjaro medical center physicians at a clinic in Moshi, Tanzania.

The findings of this and other studies in sub-Saharan African countries should help policy makers and physicians figure out how best to direct and manage the increase in the amount of powerful HIV-fighting drugs that are flowing into the continent, the researchers said. This group of drugs, known generally as anti-retroviral therapy, can suppress the levels of virus in the blood to almost non-detectable levels and prolong life.

In order to better understand the barriers that may keep patients in such economically challenged countries from successfully fighting the disease, the researchers studied 150 HIV-infected patients seen at the Moshi clinic, paying particular attention to how well patients were adhering to their medication regimens and how successfully the levels of virus in the blood was responding to the therapy.

About one in six of the patients reported not taking their medications according to schedule, and the patients more likely to have stopped complying were
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Contact: Richard Merritt
Merri006@mc.duke.edu
919-660-1309
Duke University Medical Center
Source:Eurekalert

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