Category: HIV/AIDS

The long and winding road: A step-by-step trek towards an HIV cure

The news just keeps rolling in!

After the recent revelation that a Mississippi baby seems to have been functionally cured of AIDS, it seems that the same treatment may work in adults.

Results from a recent study conducted by the Pasteur Institute in Paris showed that early treatment appears to have put HIV in what seems to be permanent remission in 14 adults.

The 14 people were part of a cohort of 70 examined by Asier Saez-Cirion of the Pasteur Institute’s unit for regulation of retroviral infections. Examining the effect of early treatment, Sáez-Cirión treated the group with antiretroviral drugs (ARVs) between 35 days and 10 weeks after infection. This is much sooner than people are normally treated, reinforcing the idea that early treatment may be a vital part of an HIV cure.

According to NewScientist, all the participant’s drug regimens had been interrupted at some point, some willingly, some because of participation in other studies.

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Baby Steps: New leads towards an HIV cure

It’s a good month to be an AIDS activist!

After the publication of results pointing to the success of aggressive antiretroviral therapy campaigns in South Africa last week, the light at the end of the tunnel just got a little bit brighter.

Scientists announced on Sunday that a baby born with HIV might have been cured. The child, born in rural Mississippi, is now 2 and a half, and has been off medication for a year with no further sign of infection, AP reported.

Speaking at a press conference at the start of the 20th Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infection in Atlanta, pediatrician Deborah Persaud called this “the first well-documented case” of its kind, ScienceNOW reported.

Though Persaud did not treat the child herself, she and her colleagues at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health conducted studies of blood samples, leading her to conclude that early treatment may be the real hero in this case, ScienceNow added.

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“Do the math!”: Big results for anti-HIV drug proponents

At last, some hope at the end of the AIDS campaign tunnel.

Two studies published in the journal Science last Thursday showed that an aggressive campaign to provide anti-retroviral drugs in Africa improved life expectancy by more than 11 years and reduced the risk of infection for healthy individuals.

But at what price?

Well, that’s the catch. According to the Los Angeles Times, these fantastic results come with a price tag between $500-$900 per patient, pretty hefty for a country with a per capita GDP of only $11,000. Proponents of less costly measures advocate that efforts should be concentrated towards the distribution of condoms, or male circumcision, rather than spending astronomical sums on drugs.

So what is antiretroviral therapy? According to the World Health Organization, it’s “the combination of at least three antiretroviral (ARV) drugs to maximally suppress the HIV virus and stop the progression of HIV disease.” (For more on ARV, click here).

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The “Ew” factor : The status of HIV stigma

On March 21, 1994 (back when Stephen Spielberg rocked the mullet), a fresh-faced Tom Hanks double-timed it up the steps of the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in L.A. to accept his Academy Award for Best Actor in a Leading role.

Pitted against Sir Anthony Hopkins for The Remains of the Day, Daniel Day- Lewis for In the Name of the Father, Lawrence Fishburne in What’s Love Got to Do with It, and Liam Neeson for Schindler’s List, Hanks won his golden statue for his role as a gay man dying of AIDS who combats stigma and discrimination in Philadelphia.

Voice choked with emotion, Hanks ended his speech with a moving cry to action and tolerance:

“I know that my work, in this case, is magnified by the fact that the streets of heaven are too crowded with angels. We know their names. They number a thousand for each one of the red ribbons that we wear here tonight. They finally rest in the warm embrace of the gracious creator of us all – a healing embrace, that cools their fevers, that clears their skin and allows their eyes to see the simple, evident, common-sense truth that is made manifest by the benevolent creator of us all and was written down on paper by wise men, tolerant men in the city of Philadelphia 200 years ago.”

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Turning HIV On Itself: Fighting Fire With Fire

It looks as though HIV may be going down in the storybooks as yet another antagonist that has spelt out its own demise. Dr. David Harrich, of the Queensland Institute of Medical Research in Brisbane, began what was to become a lifelong struggle against HIV, the virus that causes AIDS – a struggle of which now he has the upper hand. Since the appearance of the first cases of AIDS in the 1980s, he has been fighting its spread and worldwide detrimental effects. Now with a laboratory breakthrough in hand, this story’s ending is within reach.

They call it fighting fire with fire. HIV – human immunodeficiency virus – , normally causing AIDS, has been modified to prevent it – turning HIV against itself. A protein, under normal circumstances, helps the virus grow. Mutated, as Harrich has done, it prevents the virus from replicating or spreading. “Patients would still be infected with HIV, but it would not develop into AIDS,” tells Harrich. It’s not the HIV that causes AIDS, but that your immune system becomes run down. “This mutated protein would help to maintain a healthy immune system so patients would be able to handle normal infections.” Without an inside man opening the door, AIDS will have no way to get in. Read More

The Dangers of Bacterial Resistance and AIDS

It seems like only yesterday that the AIDS pandemic first hit— arriving in a storm of panicked media exclusives and misinformation.  As with any communicable, life-threatening disease, the public’s first questions were inevitably ‘have I been exposed?’ or, even, ‘could I already have AIDS without knowing?’  In the beginning, there was little clear information on where the disease came from, or how it was spread—only the grim knowledge that people were dying.  The absurd—and often mocked—notion the illness could be contracted through a toilet seat or drinking fountain seemed very valid and real—and would only later be dispelled through many years of public education and AIDS literacy campaigns.

25 years later, World AIDS Day celebrated the anniversary of its founding in 1987—marking an important global milestone for AIDS research, awareness and fundraising.  The little red ribbon can be seen everywhere— from Vancouver to Helsinki— and AIDS is now a treatable disease with a vastly improved prognosis.  With modern retroviral therapy, many patients are living past the 20-year mark.  Of course, there’s still much to be done, especially in developing nations where these drugs are often not available—mostly due to financial or political concerns. Read More

HIVS/AIDS in Pregnant Women in Sub-Saharan Africa

In North America, the general population is fairly educated about the HIV/AIDS epidemic; however, this is not the case on the African continent. HIV/AIDS is generally transmitted through unprotected sexual intercourse, contaminated blood transfusions, and used hypodermic needles. Prevention is possible, but there is no definite cure. Roughly sixty percent of all AIDS victims are women, and they are twice as likely to contract HIV through heterosexual intercourse than a man – the main cause of transmission in Sub-Saharan Africa. Women often face the problem of becoming pregnant while infected with AIDS. A study from 2009 states that close to thirty percent of South African pregnant women were living with HIV – a figure which has barely shifted over the past few years. Women infected with HIV/AIDS live very difficult lives while faced with discrimination and the possibility of passing on the virus to their children.

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HIV Drug Resistance: Refusing to Leave Without Putting Up a Fight

Years of transferring lab results from test tubes and Petri dishes out onto the dismal playing field of worldwide HIV infection has finally given us a one-up on the disease. Series and series of refinement to antiretroviral therapy (ART) and better prevention programs has indicated nothing but a dwindling battle against the virus. But HIV is battling back. They are developing resistance to our meticulously-perfected drugs. Drug resistance is, as implied in the name, the ability of a virus to withstand the effects of a given antiretroviral drug attempting to prevent its replication; it will continue to replicate in the presence of the drug.

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First In-Home HIV Test To Hit Retail Stores In the US

Recently the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the very first over the counter HIV test kit that allows individuals to test themselves in the comfort of their own homes.1 Would that not make you more inclined to take the test?  This is important because people will no longer have to make the effort to schedule a doctor’s appointment and be able to take the test in the comfort of their own home.

The OraQuick In-Home HIV Test is the first rapid diagnostics test for any infectious disease and works by detecting the antibodies that are part of the human HIV virus1.  You must simply take an oral swab and place it in the vial that is provided in the kit.  Within 20 to 40 minutes, you will have your results1.  If your results happen to be positive it doesn’t mean that you are definitely infected with the HIV.  Clinical studies have shown that “the kit is expected to show one false positive out of every 50,000 results and one false negative out of every 12 results.”  The over the counter test was not meant to replace medical testing but simply to provide another way for people to find out their HIV statuses virus. If you do test positive using this in-home test, it is recommended that you see your doctor to verify the results.1

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Canada Piloting Controversial Program To Eliminate HIV/AIDS

Once again, we’re after the one percent. But this time, it’s to help them out; the British Columbia Ministry of Health in Canada has just launched a massive four year, $48 million program in the hopes of eradicating HIV/AIDS – by means of detecting and treating the disease faster than ever.  In the spirit of leaving no stone unturned, this pilot program aims to test everyone in the province who has ever been sexually active.

Routine tests in hospitals throughout B.C. have shown that one percent are unaware of being HIV-positive, having no outward signs of infection. These people are the targets of B.C.’s revolutionary program. As Reta Gustafson, Medical Director of Communicable Disease Control for Vancouver Coastal Health, puts it matter-of-factly, “If you have HIV and don’t know it, you can’t do anything [to get treated].” Discovery of such cases, if progress is to be made, cannot rely solely on fluke. It is with this in mind that a new HIV antibody test is being implemented. The test requires but a single drop of blood from a person’s fingertip, and yields results in 30 seconds. Developed in Vancouver, it has been dubbed “A very important new step” in the worldwide fight against HIV by Dr. Julio Montaner, director of B.C.’s Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS.

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