Health authorities said they are excited by new HIV treatment designed specifically for children to replace the current metallic-tasting course. Picture: David Ritchie/African News Agency(ANA)
Health authorities said they are excited by new HIV treatment designed specifically for children to replace the current metallic-tasting course. Picture: David Ritchie/African News Agency(ANA)

Excitement over new HIV treatment specifically for children

By Mwangi Githahu Time of article published Dec 9, 2020

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Cape Town - Western Cape health authorities said they are excited by new HIV treatment designed specifically for children to replace the current metallic-tasting first line prescribed course antiretrovirals, which most children find difficult to swallow.

Spokesperson for the provincial health department Byron La Hoe said: “The current HIV treatment consists of three or more different medicines. The problem is the syrups do not taste nice.

“Recently, a lower dose of dolutegravir, the antiretroviral medication used, together with other medication, to treat HIV/Aids, has been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA). We are very excited about this development and are looking forward to having it available in South Africa.”

“We have come a long way to have alternatives to non-palatable syrups – some have been replaced by a powder or pellets that has a much more acceptable taste. Worldwide there is a big focus on having child-friendly formulations available,” said La Hoe.

Meanwhile, researchers at Stellenbosch University (SU) have been searching for the safest and most effective treatment for babies at high risk of contracting HIV.

An expert in newborns from the department of paediatrics and child health at SU’s faculty of medicine and health sciences, Prof Adrie Bekker said: “Babies with HIV constitute a small proportion of the HIV-positive population, and only a few antiretroviral drug formulations and little pharmacokinetic data are currently available to inform optimal treatment.

“We have made significant progress in the field of HIV, but a gap remains regarding optimal prevention and treatment of babies born to women with HIV,” said Bekker.

Bekker and Dr Tim Cressey from Chiang Mai University in Thailand are the principal investigators of the Petite study which is evaluating the absorption, distribution, metabolism, excretion and safety of a new medicine used on newborns exposed to HIV.

Bekker said: “The new formulation does not require to be dissolved in alcohol, as it is in the form of a powder that is mixed with a small amount of breast milk. It also has a more pleasant taste and does not require refrigeration. If proven to be effective, a high-risk baby could receive this for four to six weeks as HIV prophylaxis, or continue to use it if infected with HIV.”

“Using this drug combination from birth will be easy to administer and mean less drug switches later, making it less confusing for caregivers,” said Bekker.

Cape Argus

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