DTG has more tolerable side effects and can enable the women work and live normally and take care of their families.
Plans to roll out the new drug Dolutegravir (DTG) to treat HIV in Uganda, will need effective provision of family planning services, according to women living with HIV, to avoid their possibility of giving birth to babies with neural tube defects (that entails lack of brain and spine development).
The Advocacy Manager for The International Community of Women Living with HIV Eastern Africa (ICWEA) Margaret Happy says women and girls in East Africa continue to experience limited access to family planning information and services with the contraceptive prevalence rate for the region standing at 39%.
To mark the World Contraceptives day on September 26, 2018, in Kampala, she called for the elimination of all barriers to the access of family planning information, services and commodities for women in all their varieties which is a fundamental right.
Happy reveals women living with HIV are ready to embrace DTG because it has more tolerable side effects and can enable the women work and live normally and take care of their families.
Plans to give the drug to women with HIV had caused concern after the world Health Organisation from a preliminary analysis in Botswana, reported that it increased risk of neural tube defects among infants of women who became pregnant while taking DTG-based regimens.
Uganda just like Kenya, went on to say it would exclude women between 15 and 49 years from DTG unless they are on a long term family planning method including sterilization and advised that they would be given Efavirenz ( another form of HIV treatment).
Luckily that directive was revised to say women of reproductive age adhering to family planning would have access to DTG, according to Martha Akello the Communications Officer ICWEA.
The East Africa Community (EAC) member states demonstrated their commitments through signing of family planning 2020 which provides for securing and fulfilling the rights of an additional 120 million women and girls to access family planning information and services by the year 2020.
They promised to committed resources for family planning, developed and review family planning related policies and plans. In 2015 Uganda allocated this money $5million to improve access to family planning hormonal contraception (DMPA).
But, the contraceptive prevalence rate in Uganda is just at 30% compared to Tanzania is 34%, Rwanda 53% and Kenya at 58%.
Happy explains the contraceptive use in the region is characterised by stock outs of family planning commodities, reduced spaces for autonomy to make informed choices, human right violations, gender based violence, lack of enabling environments for family planning awareness raising and demand creation so as to increase uptake to family planning services.
She says, The use of the new HIV antiretroviral medicine DTG that countries in the region will soon roll out calls for effective contraceptives use by women of reproductive age to avoid accidents where women may have children with Neural Tube defects.
Happy says EAC member states should also invest in, engage in and support trials and studies on HIV and Contraceptives including the on-going study on the Evidence for Contraceptive Options and HIV Outcomes (ECHO) whose results are expected in 2019.