Posts tagged Antiretroviral drugs

The word "AIDS," which is the last stage in the progression of HIV, is in 3D letters.

The Progression of HIV: How the Infection Takes Over Your Body

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The word "AIDS," which is the last stage in the progression of HIV, is in 3D letters.

With proper treatment, the progression of HIV can be stalled.

It’s important to know every aspect of HIV, in particular for those infected with the virus. HIV is a volatile disease and an epidemic that has claimed the lives of over 35 million people. Understanding how the disease works can help patients make better decisions when it concerns their health. That’s why it’s imperative that patients are informed because over time and without proper treatment, HIV develops into something much worse. Find out everything you need to know about the progression of HIV and how you can protect yourself.

Laying Out the Progression of HIV

HIV progresses in three stages. As the disease moves from one stage to the next, it becomes worse over time. Eventually, the disease completely eradicates the immune system, leaving the body vulnerable to other diseases and infections. Let’s walk through the different stages of the virus and what it means for HIV-positive individuals.

Stage 1: Acute HIV Infection

The progression of HIV starts soon after infection. The first stage of the virus is known as acute HIV infection. During this stage, symptoms aren’t noticeably apparent, and for the first 2 to 4 weeks, people may be unaware that they have contracted the disease. There is a chance that HIV-positive individuals experience flu-like symptoms. These symptoms are a telling sign for anyone who has recently participated in risky sexual activity or drug use. It usually means that they have contracted the virus and it has start to multiply, causing it to spread within the body and destroy the immune system.

Stage 2: Clinical Latency

As defined by the CDC, Clinical Latency is the second stage of the virus. It is also known as asymptomatic or chronic HIV infection. While still active within the body, the HIV virus reproduces at low levels. Most people still do not show any symptoms of the disease by this point. However, it is important to note that one can still spread the infection to others. This stage is also a crucial period as the disease can evolve and become AIDS without proper treatment.

Stage 3: AIDS

AIDS is the final stage of HIV. This is when the number of CD4 cells in the body, which aid the immune system, are at their lowest. AIDS grants other infections and diseases the opportunity to damage the body severely. Your symptoms often depend on the type of illness or opportunistic infection you contract. This stage can occur when one has not properly taken medication during the first or second stage of the virus. Patients with AIDS who continue to ignore treatments usually live for three years.

Slowing Down the HIV Infection

While there is no cure for HIV, scientists are working diligently every day to find one. Their research has led to advancements in HIV medications. By taking this treatment, patients can slow the progress of the disease. Some have even found success in keeping it at stage 2 for many years, preventing the transition to AIDS. For this treatment to be effective, patients must take the antiretroviral medications every day. If you are worried or concerned that you may have contracted HIV, contact an HIV specialist today and get tested as soon as possible.

A map of Africa. In the sub-Saharan region, there is an epidemic of people living with HIV.

Hypertension an Increasing Problem for Africans Living With HIV

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A map of Africa. In the sub-Saharan region, there is an epidemic of people living with HIV.

Hypertension is on the rise among people living with HIV.

HIV is a worldwide epidemic. From country to country, the virus has a significant impact. This makes it harder to provide the resources to fight against the virus. In sub-Saharan Africa, there were 24.7 million people living with HIV in 2013. Even worse, the number of new HIV infections are up to 1.5 million. Only 39% of adults receive antiretroviral treatment.

At-Risk Individuals

There are several key groups affected by HIV within this region of the world. Unfortunately, research has shown that many of the countries in Africa, mainly Southern Africa, are the worst affected by the disease. The government continues to encourage and offer more testing for the population but many individuals are unaware of their status, leaving the country at continued risk.

The groups who are the most at risk included young women, children, sex workers, men who have sex with men, and drug users. There are several factors putting these groups in danger. Condom distribution varies from country to country. It is also not uncommon to find younger women in relationships with older men. More than 4 in 10 new infections are young women around the 15-24, who are participating in unsafe sexual behavior.

Hypertension and Living With HIV

A new problem has risen in the region of sub-Saharan Africa. Scientists are discovering a high prevalence of hypertension among rural Africans. New research reveals that about 12 percent of people living with HIV in Tanzania have hypertension when they are diagnosed. Furthermore, an additional 10 percent of the population will develop Hypertension during the first months of antiretroviral therapy.

Tanzania has approximately 1.4 million people living with the virus. However, the country has done well to curb the spread of disease. New infection dropped by more than 20% between the years of 2010 and 2015. This is due in part to the increase of antiretroviral drugs in the area.

The researchers note that the development of hypertension in these patients is likely in relations to normal cardiological risk factors like age, body mass index, and renal function. The effect that antiretroviral drugs have on the body may play a role, though.

How Scientists Plan to Address the Issue

The prevalence of HIV and hypertension is 1.5 times higher than both Europe and the United States. This is trouble for a region that is already dealing with this epidemic. Dr. Emilio Letang, Swiss TPH and Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal) has a few suggestions to combat the combination of both conditions.

“We have seen that such routine screening is a feasible and effective strategy to diagnose hypertension within an HIV programme. Moving forward, however, we need to make sure that leveraging such synergies does not compromise the efficiency of existing HIV programmes,” says Dr. Emilio.

Prof. Dr. Christoph Hatz, Chief Medical Officer at Swiss TPH continues by stating that “In many countries across sub-Saharan Africa, there is still a lack of access to drugs against major non-communicable diseases. In order for such integrated care programmes to work successfully, ensuring better availability and affordability of drugs as well as implementing comprehensive preventive and curative measures will be key.”

 

A bottle of the HIV drug known as abacavir.

Computer Analyzes Adverse HIV Drug Effects

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A bottle of the HIV drug known as abacavir.

Scientists use technology to simulate an HIV drug and the cells.

Drugs are often a double-edged sword. While their purpose is to cure or alleviate symptoms caused, many of them come with complications. This is often the case with drugs for severe conditions such as HIV drugs.

Furthermore, HIV is one of the most troublesome diseases in the world. Medications help fight off the virus but they can also have adverse effects on the body. One of the most common drugs for HIV is abacavir. The side effects of this drug are rare but a certain portion (5 to 8 percent) of patients do experience an intense allergic reaction to it.

Abacavir is known to cause hypersensitivity syndrome. This is a life threating reaction which can cause fever, rash, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain. If patients have a particular human leukocyte antigen (HLA), these symptoms usually appear within the first two to six weeks of taking the HIV drug.

The HLA protein is a substance that induces an immune response. These proteins are located on the surface of a cell and often communicate with T-cells. If an entity other than a co-binding peptide binds to an HLA protein and changes it, the protein will deem it foreign. This signals the T-cells, and cause an immune response. Often, the abacavir drug appears as an unknown entity when it tries to bind to the cells.

Researchers Take a Closer Look at HIV Drug

A test was performed at North Carolina State University. Researchers used a computer model to get a closer look at the abacavir drug reaction on a molecular level. They wanted to see the drug’s interaction with the HLA proteins.

“There are 15,000 variants of HLA, and everyone carries some of these variants,” says Denis Fourches, assistant professor of chemistry at NC State. “HLA-B*57:01 is one of the first variants studied in the context of a drug-induced immune reaction. We know that it binds with abacavir, but little was understood about exactly what was happening structurally at the molecular level, especially in terms of the relationship with the co-binding peptide. This is a very complex system.”

The computer was able to create 3D models of the HLA protein, abacavir, and the co-binding peptides. Researchers simulated the docking process with and without co-binding peptides. They also ran simulations of the process with 13 other HIV drugs that have similar effects.

“The models allowed us to identify key atomic interactions that cause abacavir and other drugs to bind to the HLA variant protein and ultimately trigger the immune response,” Fourches says. “When you can forecast and understand the elements of the drug that enable the binding to occur, you may be able to create new active compounds that do not have that problem.”

The research team at NC state hopes that his in-depth look at binding process will provide them a better understanding of how the immune system reacts to drugs. With this knowledge, they can predict the side effects of medications. In the future, they can also build better drugs. Hopefully, they will avoid life-threatening situations.

A picture of an antiretroviral pill, which gay men use to prevent the spread of HIV.

Better HIV Treatment Leads to Riskier Behavior in Gay Men

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A picture of an antiretroviral pill, which gay men use to prevent the spread of HIV.

Antiretroviral drugs are having an unintended effect on gay men.

The advancements in HIV treatment have made it easier to stall the progression of the virus. However, a new study suggests that the news of these treatments is having an unintended consequence. More gay men are engaging in risky behavior because they believe that antiretroviral medicines will keep them safe. However, the continuation this kind of behavior only increases their risk despite taking proper prevention methods.

The Risk to Gay Men

Gay Men are already more likely to contract HIV than others. In 2015, gay and bisexual men accounted for 67 percent of all new diagnoses. Anal sex is the highest risk factor for HIV transmission. Receptive anal sex puts more men at risk than insertive anal sex. This is because of the rectums thin lining, which allows HIV to enter the body more easily. The transmission of HIV can happen from semen or pre-seminal fluid.

The Danger of Relying Solely on Medicinal HIV Treatment

Study leader Seth Kalichman of the University of Connecticut and his team analyzed a survey spanning 19 years. Participants at a gay pride event noted their sexual habits. Here is what they found:

  • An increase in condomless sex among men.
  • A rise in the number of sexual partners that men engaged with.
  • Condomless receptive anal sex has doubled in HIV-negative men.
  • Condomless insertive anal sex has tripled in HIV-negative men.

We are seeing a considerable increase in unsafe sex because gay men perceive antiretroviral drugs to be enough. However, after looking at the survey data, they found there wasn’t much of a reduction of new HIV infections in major cities. In fact, certain countries with HIV testing programs and antiretroviral drugs have seen infection grow among gay men. The risk remains when unsafe behavior increases.

Kalichman concludes that “The current study adds to the mounting evidence that substantial changes have occurred in community-held beliefs that condomless anal sex is safer in the era of HIV treatment as prevention.”

Several orange and white antiretroviral drugs.

Antiretroviral Drugs for HIV Link to Neurological Issues

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Several orange and white antiretroviral drugs.

How dangerous are the side effects of antiretroviral drugs?

In the fight against HIV, antiretroviral drugs are the strongest weapon we have. While these medications do not cure or kill the virus, they stop it from progressing any further. Unfortunately, this treatment is a combination of several different types of drugs. When combined, they slow down HIV. However, according to new research, they may also leave significant neurological damage.

The Risks of Antiretroviral Drugs

Like most drugs for serious conditions, antiretroviral drugs do have side effects. However, their ability to stop the progression of HIV to AIDS has outweighed any minor complications. To this day, they are so successful that patients with AIDS are a rarity.

Some patients have been known to experience appetite loss, lipodystrophy, diarrhea, fatigue, mood changes, nausea, and bone loss. Scientists are working to make these drugs stronger and safer for patients. With the right precautions, patients can even make the side effects less debilitating.

The Connection to Alzheimer’s Disease

At the University of Pennsylvania, research has implicated some antiretroviral drugs in the progress of Alzheimer’s disease. They suggest that protease inhibitors are the cause. Protease inhibitors are the drugs that work the best against HIV. Apparently, some of these drugs promote the growth of the peptide beta-amyloid, which damages neurons.

“Protease inhibitors are very effective antiviral therapies, but they do have inherent toxicities,” said Kelly Jordan-Sciutto, senior author on the study. “Our findings may cause us to rethink how we’re using these drugs and even consider developing an adjunctive therapy to reduce some of these negative effects.”

Through testing, they were able to identify that the drugs did indeed cause the reaction and damage to the neurons. However, they are working to inhibit the enzyme called BACE1, which leads to the production of the beta-amyloid.

“Targeting PERK and/or BACE1 could help contribute to a therapeutic approach to treat drug-associated cognitive disorders.” said Jordan-Sciutto.

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