Finding effective treatment for HIV is a long-standing battle. Scientists are fighting against the disease every day. The search for answers may lead to drastic measures. However, at what point do the risk outweigh the cure? That’s the question posed by researchers at the Johns Hopkins University of Medicine when it comes to the ‘shock and kill’ treatment.
What is the ‘Shock and Kill’ Treatment for HIV?
The shock-and-kill treatment reveals HIV hidden within the cells. This is the problem that many scientists run into – HIV hides. When it is dormant, the virus does not trigger the immune system to fight back. It’s also the reason that antiretroviral therapies are only capable of keeping the disease at bay.
The proposed shock-and-kill treatment essentially wakes HIV from its dormant state to make it vulnerable to the immune system and antiretroviral drugs. However, testing this method has led scientists to believe the supposed ‘cure’ could have disastrous results.
The treatment was tested on the simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV), a disease that is found in primates and is very much similar to HIV. One of the test subjects displayed encephalitis symptoms and brain inflammation. The symptoms only worsened and the primate had to be put down humanely.
This treatment spells trouble if the disease is hiding within the brain. Activation in this area only makes a patient’s condition worse, especially when scientists do not know where the disease is hiding to begin with. Researchers advise caution.
“The potential for the brain to harbor significant HIV reservoirs that could pose a danger if activated hasn’t received much attention in the HIV eradication field,” says Janice Clements, Ph.D., professor of molecular and comparative pathobiology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. “Our study sounds a major cautionary note about the potential for unintended consequences of the shock-and-kill treatment strategy.”
Studies have shown how a patient’s life expectancy with HIV has gotten better over the past 20 years. A lot of progress has been made. Researchers have found breakthrough treatment methods. And treatment itself has gotten more readily available.
It’s now well known that HIV is no longer a death march. Patients are now able to live fuller lives compared to previous decades. But how much longer are they expected to live for? And what factors lead to such vast improvements? Let’s take a closer look at that right now.
Life Expectancy With HIV Over The Years
From 1996-97, the death rate for HIV-positive people was at 7%. For people diagnosed with HIV, their average life span was typically 10 years. For 20-year-olds with the virus, it was higher. On average, they lived until 39. These numbers are now significantly better.
By 2006, that number jumped to 24 years. More than double the average from a decade previous. And a 20-year-old with HIV lived until 56 on average. That number is now in the high 60s. That leaves a separation of about 13 years between an HIV-positive and HIV-negative 20-year-old.
That’s the smallest gap in life expectancy between the two parties to date. It goes to show how far we’ve come in two decades. But that there’s still work to be done.
How Life Expectancy Has Improved
Antiretroviral Therapy (ART) was not yet readily available in 1996. That’s changed over the past two decades. As a result of there being easier access ART, it revolutionized HIV treatment. By preventing the virus from reproducing, ART is able to lower the viral load in the bloodstream. When successful, the viral load is so low that the virus is undetectable. HIV is still there. And it can still be spread to someone else. But there aren’t any symptoms.
Treatment is more effective across the board. Over half of those eligible for treatment are now receiving it. Also, Linkage to Care numbers continues to increase. The necessary work is being done.
In addition to being more effective, HIV treatment is now simpler, too. Fewer pills are needed. And there’s no longer a complex schedule to follow. A lot of patients can now take one pill a day and be fine. They work for a longer period of time and have fewer side-effects. It’s less likely for a patient to have to switch medications periodically.
The new year looks to be a big one for HIV vaccine development. 2016 gave the HIV research community plenty to be optimistic about. A lot of tiny advancements were made. And when it comes to HIV, each tiny advancement is considered a huge win for those looking for a cure. Multiple encouraging trials took place last year. And researchers are looking to continue that momentum.
It’s helpful to keep up with the latest in HIV vaccine development. These small wins are cause for some hopeful celebration. With that in mind, here are a few of the most encouraging advancements around the world set to continue in 2017.
What’s Happening in HIV Vaccine Development in 2017
- Scientists in London have worked on a more radical vaccine that hasn’t been tried before. The vaccine is called the SAV001 vaccine. And it uses a killed whole virus as a way to get a response from the immune system. Diseases such as hepatitis A, polio, and rabies were treated this way. But never with HIV. In Canada, scientists recently used this in a trial for 33 HIV-positive patients. It was successful. Now they plan on testing 600 people who do not have HIV. This will test the vaccine’s ability to prevent the infection. The new trials for that study are due by September.
- South Africa has embarked on a study with 5,400 sexually-active men and women ages 18-35. This is only the seventh full-scale trial to take place for HIV. The vaccine being used in South Africa is similar to the one tested in Thailand that started back in 2003. The rate of infection was 31% lower than the group that got the placebo in the Thailand study. So, South Africa is looking to get that number up to 60%.
- Another vaccine is set to start this year in California. It’s inspired by the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative, Scripps, and La Jolla Institute. Unlike the other vaccines, this one is not expected to defeat HIV by itself. But it expects to build on specific immune cells that nearly all humans have. The vaccine’s goal is to generate those cells fast enough to stop the virus in its tracks.
As you can see, many vaccines are in the work to get rid of HIV once and for all. 2017 has a lot of promising studies in the works. And in the upcoming years, we’re bound to see more progress.
Over the past 5 years, the HPV vaccine has been made widely available for both women and men. Many health organizations are happy about this. They want it to be taken as early as possible. For example, the CDC suggests that kids between ages 11 and 12 get two doses of the vaccine. The younger they get vaccinated, the likelier it is to get rid of this widespread virus.
HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection (STI). It can be spread through sex or skin-to-skin contact. There are 150 different types of the virus. Because of this, a large majority of sexually active people have had HPV at some point in their lives. But more often than not, it goes away without causing any health problems. Lasting HPV, however, can lead to genital warts or certain kinds of cancer.
As a precaution, everyone should take an HPV vaccine. Unfortunately, only a handful of countries approves of men taking it. This does not help prevent the virus from spreading. HPV is too common of a virus for this to happen. Sexually active men need to take this vaccine. Gay men especially.
The Need for Gay Men to Take the HPV Vaccine
Recent studies have shown that anal cancer is most often caused by HPV. They also note that men who have sex with men (MSM) are more likely to get anal cancer than men who only have sex with women. The prevalence of anal HPV is around 45% more common among MSM. Numbers like these make it clear that HPV is a greater risk to gay men.
Gay men with HIV are also greatly affected by HPV. One study showed that 77% of MSM with HIV were also infected with anal HPV. And another showed that 90% of them were infected with at least one type of HPV. These numbers are startlingly high.
As HPV awareness rises, there needs to be a push to start vaccinating men. Too many are at risk. And gay men are uniquely susceptible. Proving them with proper care for this virus will save a lot of lives.
For this post, we’ve decided to do something a little different and share our favorite inspirational HIV quotes. Living with HIV is a day-by-day challenge. Because of this, a positive mindset is important. High anxiety and depression have a strong effect on HIV patients. More so than a regular patient.
People with HIV want to be treated with kindness and respect. Just like everyone else. Telling them as much can go a long way. So, with that in mind, here are just a few of some of the most inspirational HIV quotes.
Inspirational HIV Quotes
- “Being seen does have value. I have the support of my boyfriend, my great friends, and my loving parents. Many do not and this is, in part, for them.” – Olympian Ji Wallace on having HIV.
- “We need to band together as a unit every day, especially to conquer the strength of the AIDS virus.” – Actor Dustin Hoffman, on combatting the spread of HIV/AIDS.
- “HIV does not make people dangerous to know, so you can shake their hands and give them a hug: Heaven knows they need it.” – Princess Diana, on getting rid of the HIV stigma.
- “Sick people, particularly those with serious conditions, greatly prefer the company of their friends and family to residence in a hospital or nursing home.” – Author and activist David Mixner, on the importance of a strong support system for sick people.
- “Three decades into this crisis, let us set our sights on achieving the “three zeros.” Zero new HIV infections, zero discrimination, and zero AIDS-related deaths.” – Ban Ki-Moon, secretary-general of the UN, calling for the cure of HIV and AIDS.
- “We live in a completely interdependent world, which simply means we cannot escape each other. How we respond to AIDS depends, in part, on whether we understand this interdependence. It is not someone else’s problem. This is everybody’s problem.” – Bill Clinton, discussing a united front in solving the AIDS crisis.
Some of the most iconic figures of the past century have shared inspirational words about HIV. Whether the person is royalty, a writer, or even a Hollywood star, they all share the same eagerness when it comes to fighting HIV. They believe that positivity, as well as working together, will help find a cure to end the virus once and for all.