HIV Cures Come At A Price

Also published on Bilerico.com

Today, amfAR grantee Dr. Timothy Henrich announced two HIV-positive patients who have undetectable levels of HIV after undergoing stem-cell transplants at the 7th annual International AIDS Society Conference on HIV Pathogenesis, Treatment and Prevention in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Money

Money (Photo credit: 401(K) 2013)

We’ve had some excellent news about the curing of HIV-infected people in the past year. But it comes at a price.

It’s important to note that the individuals involved received intensive care and went through extreme discomfort in order to eradicate the virus from their bodies. It’s not something that we’ll be able to replicate for the general population anytime soon.

And I think we need to remember that people are still dying of HIV-related causes every day- thousands of people. And new infections aren’t really slowing down- even in the First World where there is convenient access to safe sex supplies. There’s still a disconnect. There’s still ignorance and apathy out there.

It’s still good news however.

From amFAR:

The patients had been on long-term antiretroviral therapy for HIV when they developed lymphoma. To treat the cancer, the patients underwent reduced intensity chemotherapy followed by stem-cell transplants. Since the transplants, Dr. Henrich has been unable to find any evidence of HIV infection.

Dr. Henrich was awarded a grant through the amfAR Research Consortium on HIV Eradication (ARCHE) after presenting preliminary findings on these patients at the International AIDS Conference last July. With support from amfAR, he conducted a clinical study in which his research team withdrew the patients’ antiretroviral therapy and performed several sophisticated assays looking for signs of viral rebound in blood and other tissues. One patient has been off treatment with no detectable virus for approximately 15 weeks, and the second patient for seven weeks, with similar results. However, it is too soon to draw any definitive long-term conclusions.

It is also unclear how long viral rebound might take in a patient whose viral reservoirs have been dramatically depleted, but not eradicated. According to amfAR/ARCHE grantee Dr.Robert Siciliano of Johns Hopkins University, it may take over a year. Previously a patient in a study by the National Institutes of Health had gone 50 days after treatment withdrawal without viral rebound. Dr. Henrich’s patients are at or beyond this threshold, and more definitive answers will emerge as these patients continue to be closely monitored.

“These findings clearly provide important new information that might well alter the current thinking about HIV and gene therapy,” said amfAR CEO Kevin Robert Frost. “While stem-cell transplantation is not a viable option for people with HIV on a broad scale because of its costs and complexity, these new cases could lead us to new approaches to treating, and ultimately even eradicating, HIV.”

The first person to be cured of HIV, Timothy Brown (“the Berlin patient”), also underwent a stem-cell transplant to treat his leukemia. These new cases differ significantly, however, in that the stem-cell donors lacked the genetic mutation (CCR5 delta32) that renders a person virtually resistant to HIV infection. Nor did Dr. Henrich’s patients undergo the intensive chemotherapy or total body irradiation that preceded Timothy Brown’s stem-cell transplant.

“Dr. Henrich is charting new territory in HIV eradication research,” said amfAR Vice President and Director of Research Dr. Rowena Johnston. “Whatever the outcome, we will have learned more about what it will take to cure HIV. We believe amfAR’s continued investments in HIV cure-based research are beginning to show real results and will ultimately lead us to a cure in our lifetime.”

I still can’t help but think we’ve not done our best in response to this epidemic- especially in the last decade. I wonder if, as a community, we settled for simply not dying as a substitute for true health.

If so, what does that say about our self-esteem, self-care and community spirit? Have we lost interest in each other beyond the obvious?

That’s a heavy price to pay.

Latex & Lace 2013

..is tomorrow at the SUB at 8:30 pm!

And it’s FREE!  Click on the link below for the way cool poster.

2013 Latex and Lace

AIDSOutreachlogo2AIDS Outreach is also offering free HIV testing from 4-8pm right at the SUB!

See you there!

Olympic Awareness

From AIDS Healthcare Foundation’s Facebook page:

I love that they’re different sizes…

Warning! Gonorrhea Threat Is Real

HIV isn’t the only reason to use condoms. From Tim Horn:

"WARNING - VENEREAL DISEASES" - NARA...

The last line of therapeutic defense against gonorrhea is losing its strength, according to an editorial published February 9 in the The New England Journal of Medicine. With no new antibiotics effective against the sexually transmitted infection (STI) on the horizon, Gail Bolan, MD, of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and her fellow authors are worried about an upswing in gonorrhea samples showing to be less susceptible to cephalosporins—the only class of drugs still widely effective against the bacteria.

“It is time to sound the alarm,” the authors state. “During the past 3 years, the wily gonococcus has become less susceptible to our last line of antimicrobial defense, threatening our ability to cure gonorrhea and prevent severe [associated illnesses].”

Gonorrhea, caused by the bacteria Neisseria gonorrhoeae, is the second most commonly reported communicable disease in the United States, with more than 600,000 new cases reported annually. Typically spread through sexual activity, it disproportionately affects vulnerable populations such as minorities who are marginalized because of their race, ethnicity or sexual orientation.

Untreated gonorrhea can cause serious and permanent health problems in both women and men. Gonorrhea is a common cause of pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), affecting roughly 750,000 women every year in the United States. It can be painful and may lead to internal abscesses—pus-filled “pockets” that are hard to cure. PID can also lead to fallopian tube damage and ultimately cause infertility or increase the risk of ectopic pregnancy.

In men, gonorrhea can cause epididymitis, a painful condition of the ducts attached to the testicles that may lead to infertility if left untreated.

Gonorrhea can also spread to the blood or joints, which can be life threatening. Additionally, gonorrhea can make it easier to either transmit or become infected with HIV. 

…[the increased resistances] Bolan and her colleagues note, were most pronounced in the western United States (up to 3.6 percent) and among men who have sex with men (up to 4.7 percent).

CDC: More Teenage Boys Using Condoms

Birth control- it’s not just for girls anymore.
A study by the CDC indicates boys are taking a more proactive role in accountability when it comes to sex. Excerpt:

More teenagers are using a condom — by itself or along with a partner’s hormonal contraceptive — according to a new teen sex survey from the CDC.

The survey shows sexual activity and contraceptive use among U.S. teenagers have remained relatively stable over the last decade. But condoms gained among teenage boys as the preferred method.

Also, the teen birth rate has resumed a gradual decline that was briefly interrupted in 2005-2007.

“The slight increase from 2005 to 2007 generated concern that progress over the past two decades in reducing teen pregnancies could have stalled,” researcher Gladys Martinez, PhD, of the CDC’s division of vital statistics, and colleagues write in their report. “However, data for 2008 and 2009 show that the teen birth rate again declined from the rate in 2007.”

The study showed the teen birth rate for girls aged 15-19 was 39.1 births per 1,000 females in 2009. That’s 37% lower than its peak of 61.8 per 1,000 in 1991. Researchers say that is a historic low for the U.S., but still higher than many other developed countries, including Canada.

And that means that STD/HIV rates will be affected- for the better.

On a side note, I believe the surge in birth rates to be the direct result of Bush era abstinence-only education- something Denny Rehberg wants to bring back.

Sigh.

But a surge in personal responsibility on the part of people with penises? Applause.