ABOUT 4 000 HIV positive people in Bulawayo are on second and third line of antiretroviral therapy (ART) after defaulting from the recommended first line regimen.

According to health experts, people on ART must adhere to the medication for life as defaulting may give HIV a chance to multiply and become resistant to the drugs.

Defaulting also increases their risk of spreading the virus to the next person.

According to the National Aids Council (Nac), most people move to other lines of treatment due to defaulting.

Bulawayo has 74 237 HIV positive people.

Statistics from the organisation show that 68 270 people are on first line of ART while 3 969 are on second and third lines.

“We have a total of 3 969 people on the second line of ART regimen in Bulawayo and 35 on the third line. This means we have people who are defaulting and risking their health by stopping medication whenever they feel cured,” reads a document from Nac.

Bulawayo has a HIV prevalence of 14,3 percent which is slightly higher than the 13,7 percent national prevalence.

Of the total number of those on second and third line regimen, women and girls account for more than 50 percent.

Bulawayo provincial Aids coordinator Mrs Sinatra Nyathi said other regimens of ART come with many side effects compared to the recommended first line.

“We have many people who are failing to adhere to prescribed HIV medication and they are moving to other regimens which are more toxic and expensive. Members of the public should remember that we still do not have a cure for HIV and that ART is the only available option to enhance the quality of life,” said Mrs Nyathi.

She said defaulting clients should remember that drug resistant HIV is more difficult and expensive to cure.

“We call on members of the family to support the affected and ensure they adhere because the first line is the best ART regimen,” added Mrs Nyathi.

Zimbabwe is working towards ensuring that by 2020, 90 percent of all people living with HIV will know their HIV status, 90 percent of all people with diagnosed HIV infection receive sustained antiretroviral therapy and that 90 percent of all people receiving antiretroviral therapy will have viral suppression.Chronicle