The antiretroviral rollout and drug-resistant HIV in Africa: insights from empirical data and theoretical models

AIDS. 2005 Jan 3;19(1):1-14. doi: 10.1097/00002030-200501030-00001.


The U.S. Government has pledged to spend $15 billion in Africa and the Caribbean on AIDS. A central focus of this plan is to provide antiretroviral treatment (ART) to millions. Here, we evaluate whether the plan to rollout ART in Africa is likely to generate an epidemic of drug-resistant strains of HIV. We review what has occurred as a result of high usage of ART in developed countries in terms of changes in risky behavior, and the emergence and transmission of drug-resistant HIV. We also review how mathematical models have been used to predict the evolution of drug-resistant HIV epidemics. We then show how models can be used to predict the likely impact of the ART rollout on the evolution of drug-resistant HIV in Africa. At currently planned levels of treatment coverage, we predict that (over the next decade) in Africa: (i) the impact of ART on reducing HIV transmission (and prevalence) is likely to be undetectable (unless accompanied by substantial changes in behavior), (ii) the transmission rate of drug-resistant HIV will be below the WHO surveillance threshold of 5%, and (ii) the majority of cases of drug-resistant HIV that will occur will be due to acquired (and not transmitted) resistance. For the next decade, large-scale surveillance for detecting transmitted resistance in Africa is unnecessary. Instead, we recommend that patients should be closely monitored for acquired resistance, and sentinel surveillance (in a few urban centers) should be used to monitor transmitted resistance.

Publication types

  • Editorial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Africa / epidemiology
  • Anti-Retroviral Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Disease Outbreaks
  • Drug Resistance, Viral
  • HIV / drug effects
  • HIV Infections / drug therapy*
  • HIV Infections / epidemiology
  • HIV Infections / transmission
  • Humans
  • Models, Biological
  • Prevalence
  • Risk-Taking
  • Sentinel Surveillance


  • Anti-Retroviral Agents