Open Access Research article

Declining trends in early warning indicators for HIV drug resistance in Cameroon from 2008–2010: lessons and challenges for low-resource settings

Joseph Fokam12*, Serge C Billong23*, Anne C ZK Bissek24, Etienne Kembou5, Pascal Milenge5, Ibile Abessouguie1, Armand S Nkwescheu26, Zephirin Tsomo7, Avelin F Aghokeng8, Grace D Ngute39, Peter M Ndumbe1102, Vittorio Colizzi111 and Jean BN Elat2

Author Affiliations

1 Chantal BIYA International Reference Centre (CIRCB) for research on HIV/AIDS prevention and management, Yaounde, Cameroon

2 Faculty of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences (FMBS) of the University of Yaounde 1, Yaounde, Cameroon

3 Central Technical Group (CTG), National AIDS Control Committee (NACC), Yaounde, Cameroon

4 Department of Disease Control, Ministry of Public Health, Yaounde, Cameroon

5 World Health Organisation (WHO) Afro, National Office, Yaounde, Cameroon

6 Division of Operational Health Research (DROS), Ministry of Public Health, Yaounde, Cameroon

7 Approved Treatment Centre, Yaoundé Central Hospital, Yaounde, Cameroon

8 Virology Laboratory, Centre de Recherche en Maladies Emergentes et Ré-émergentes (CREMER)/IMPM/IRD, Yaounde, Cameroon

9 Approved Treatment Centre (ATC), Yaounde General Hospital, Yaounde, Cameroon

10 Faculty of Health Sciences (FHS), University of Buea, Buea, Cameroon

11 UNESCO Biotechnology Chair, Department of Biological Sciences, University of Rome “Tor Vergata”, Rome, Italy

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BMC Public Health 2013, 13:308  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-13-308

Published: 8 April 2013



Rapid scale-up of antiretroviral therapy (ART) and limited access to genotyping assays in low-resource settings (LRS) are inevitably accompanied by an increasing risk of HIV drug resistance (HIVDR). The current study aims to evaluate early warning indicators (EWI) as an efficient strategy to limit the development and spread of preventable HIVDR in these settings, in order to sustain the performance of national antiretroviral therapy (ART) rollout programmes.


Surveys were conducted in 2008, 2009 and 2010 within 10 Cameroonian ART clinics, based on five HIVDR EWIs: (1) Good prescribing practices; (2) Patient lost to follow-up; (3) Patient retention on first line ART; (4) On-time drug pick-up; (5) Continuous drug supply. Analysis was performed as per the World Health Organisation (WHO) protocol.


An overall decreasing performance of the national ART programme was observed from 2008 to 2010: EWI1 (100% to 70%); EWI2 (40% to 20%); EWI3 (70% to 0%); EWI4 (0% throughout); EWI5 (90% to 40%). Thus, prescribing practices (EWI1) were in conformity with national guidelines, while patient adherence (EWI2, EWI3, and EWI4) and drug supply (EWI5) were lower overtime; with a heavy workload (median ratio ≈1/64 staff/patients) and community disengagement observed all over the study sites.


In order to limit risks of HIVDR emergence in poor settings like Cameroon, continuous drug supply, community empowerment to support adherence, and probably a reduction in workload by task shifting, are the potential urgent measures to be undertaken. Such evidence-based interventions, rapidly generated and less costly, would be relevant in limiting the spread of preventable HIVDR and in sustaining the performance of ART programmes in LRS.

Early warning indicator; HIV drug resistance; Surveillance and prevention; Cameroon