BACKGROUND: HIV drug resistance and suboptimal adherence are the main reasons for treatment failure among HIV-infected individuals. As genotypic resistance testing is not routinely available in resource-limited settings such as Uganda, data on transmitted and acquired resistance are sparse.

METHODS: This observational follow-up study assessed the virological outcomes of patients diagnosed with virological failure or transmitted HIV drug resistance in 2015 at the adults’ outpatient clinic of the Infectious Diseases Institute in Kampala, Uganda. Initially, 2430 patients on antiretroviral therapy (ART) underwent virological monitoring, of which 190 had virological failure and were subsequently eligible for this follow-up study. Nine patients diagnosed with transmitted drug resistance were eligible. In patients with a viral load > 1000 copies/mL, genotypic resistance testing was performed.

RESULTS: Of 190 eligible patients, 30 (15.8%) had either died or were lost to follow-up. A total of 148 (77.9%) were included, of which 98 had had a change of ART regimen, and 50 had received adherence counseling only. The majority was now on second-line ART (N = 130, 87.8%). The median age was 39 years (interquartile range: 32-46), and 109 (73.6%) were women. Virological failure was diagnosed in 29 (19.6%) patients, of which 24 (82.8%) were on second-line ART. Relevant drug resistance was found in 25 (86.2%) cases, of which 12 (41.3%) carried dual and 7 (24.1%) triple drug resistance.

CONCLUSION: Two years after initial virological failure, most patients followed up by this study had a successful virological outcome. However, a significant proportion either continued to fail or died or was lost to follow-up.