Resistance to HIV drugs spreads in Africa

A study to assess the global trend of HIV drug resistance has determined that resistance against antiretroviral drugs is rising in parts of sub-Saharan Africa.

The researchers found that in East Africa, drug resistance has increased 29 percent each year since the widespread roll-out of the medication. Southern Africa has experienced an increase of resistance at a rate of 14 percent per year, the Los Angeles Times reports.

The most frequent resistance was to the first-line antiretroviral drugs, which are called non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors.

The scientists did not see significant drug resistance changes in the Caribbean or Latin America. Results varied too widely among countries in Asia to determine an overall trend for the area.

While rates of increase were anticipated after increased roll-out of drugs occurred after 2003, the researchers warned that the situation must be carefully monitored to ensure the problem doesn't get worse.

"The good news is that it's still modest, contained, and not alarming," Silvia Bertagnolio, a representative of the World Health Organization, said, according to the Los Angeles Times. "But we have to be vigilant (to make sure the rates don't keep going up)."

In 2003, 400,000 HIV infected people received antiretroviral drugs around the world. That number increased to eight million infected people in 2011.

HIV can become drug resistant through random mutations that occur when the virus copies its genetic material and can occur more frequently if a patient doesn't take the pills daily.