(News Feature): Hepatis B patients urged to be tested also for HIV

A patient diagnosed with Hepatitis B should also undergo testing on human immuno virus (HIV).

"We are pushing these because there are so many Hepatitis B (cases) in the Philippines," said Dr. EdselSalvana, director at the National Institute of Molecular Biology and Biotechnology, National Institutes of Health of the University of the Philippines, Manila.

In an interview, Dr. Salvana said that they were giving the recommendation to Hepatology Society of the Philippines (HSP) so that it could spread the information on the necessity for those afflicted with Hepa B to get tested to ensure that the patient could be properly manage and avoid the consequence of developing 'resistance' to the drug if it happened that they were co-infected with HIV.

Drug resistance is a condition wherein there is reduction in effectiveness of a drug such as an antimicrobial in curing a disease or condition.

In particular, Salvana explained the danger of drug resistance occurrence in patient suffering from Hepatitis B and at the same time having HIV but is not aware of it.

The reason lies on the fact that some of the drug medications in the management of Hepatitis B are actually used as one of the components in the 3-in-1 pill anti-retro-viral therapy (ARTs) provided among HIV patients.

In other words, if the HIV patient co-infected with Hepatitis B developed resistance to the drug because of exposure to it (in the medication) it will be difficult to cure the virus who has the ability to mutate fast and get stronger.

With the speedy mutation, therefore, the immune system will have difficulty to fight the "harsh or stronger version" of the virus and gave-in or fail to respond effectively.

"The problem is there are so many doctors starting to give "tenofovir" and "lamivudine" (to Hepatitis B patients) without requesting the patient to be tested first HIV," he explained.

Incidentally, the said two drugs are also being used in the 3-in-1 pill or ARTs among HIV patients.

He said that since ARTs is serving as a "lifesaving tool among HIV patients to lower the CD 4, there is a need to ensure also at the same time that the patient taking them are protected against resistance.

In the country, he said that there were seven ARTs being provided by the Department of Health (DOH) as of now.

He added that ARTs helps a lot in the management of the HIV patients as a way of giving them hope though it is not actually a "cure-all drug" for as of the moment studies are still being done.

He said that those tested positive with HIV and being linked to care by DOH as lucky recipients of these free drugs should be prevented from developing "drug-resistance".

As explained earlier, resistance to the drugs should not happened because that will lose the ability of the patient to cope with other infections, he said.

When that happens, then death among the patient who failed in the ARTs is inevitable.

Based on the data of DOH there are an estimated seven million Filipinos with Hepatitis B.

He said that aside from knowing the HIV status of the said patients, the Hepatitis B patients found positive with HIV can actually receive the medication which is part of the ARTs being provided.

"So we asked Hepatology Society of the Philippines, please do an HIV test first," he said as a way to ensure that proper coordination on the treatment of said infections will be done and not actually waste the resources available and avoid "resistance".

He added that in case, that every year, the scenario of resistance to ARTs occur, then there will be no other choice for the DOH but to acquire other available ARTs to sustain its program on control and prevention of HIV and in providing linkage to care of HIV positive patients.

ARTs are being provided so that HIV patient will be able to live his/her life to the fullest and not be pulled down by opportunistic infections that may weaken their immune system.

However, it is very important that to note that once a patient started with this "regimen", they should take this for lifetime and do not discontinue to avoid "drug resistance" because their immune system will fail to recognize the said medication anymore once the medication stopped.

ARTs are being provided by DOH as part of its efforts in providing linkage to care the patients tested positive with HIV.

Source: Philippines News Agency