Taking the pain out of taking ARVs

Jul 3, 2013 | News

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Ga-Rankuwa-based AIDS activist, Andrew Mosane, is one of the first patients to receive fixed dose combination (FDC) anti-retroviral therapy. He says this treatment will make taking ARVs simple for him.

“At the moment I’m taking five pills every day – two in the morning and three at night”, Mosane says.

“Seriously, it was a challenge taking five pills on a day to day basis. I was taking AZT, 3TC and Efavirenz. FDC is good because it is easy dosage. It is a single pill. You don’t get drug burdened or get tired when you have to take your drugs. It is also good because it has fewer side-effects”, the 36-year old adds.

According to the national Health Department’s guidelines on FDC treatment, pregnant and breastfeeding women, people who are taking anti-retroviral treatment for the first time and those co-infected with HIV and TB should be prioritised for treatment with FDCs. People like Mosane, who do not fall under these categories and are already taking ARVs, will start switching to FDC therapy in later months. So, having him on FDCs already is an exception to the rule.

Asked how he got to be on FDC therapy, Mosane explained: “I am an activist and I wanted to take the lead in this. I’ve been taking ARVs since 2006 after I was diagnosed with HIV in 2003 and my bloods were checked for eligibility to switch treatment to another set of drugs. It was a right choice for me to take that step”.

“About two months before FDCs became available I insisted on taking blood tests because I wanted to start taking Truvada and Efavirenz and the results came back showing that I can switch my medications. But I did not want to start taking these drugs because I knew that the fixed dose combination would soon be available, even though I did not know when”.

“By luck, it happened that the facility manager at Phedisong Clinic in Ga-Rankuwa, north of Pretoria, where the national Health Minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi, would launch the FDC therapy wanted someone to be on television to speak about their life with HIV and how FDC therapy will help them. Most people were afraid to be on national TV, so I came in and took the opportunity and grabbed it with both hands. That’s how I managed to switch onto FDC treatment”.

He lamented the fact that “there are restrictions to people who are already on treatment as the restrictions mean that they will have to wait longer before they can switch to fixed dose combination therapy”.

However, he believes the country is moving in the right direction by introducing FDC therapy. “It is going to save South Africa some money. But we have to guard against stock shortages”, Mosane opines.