Posts tagged controlling HIV
We’ve discussed HIV’s impact on the sub-Saharan region of Africa before. Over the years, the disease has infected more than 25 million people, with the number of new infections rising every year. One the biggest obstacles the area faces is a lack of access to condoms. This contraceptive is rarely used among men and women in these countries. Eliminating HIV is no easy task, especially in a region where the prevalence of HIV is 1.5 times higher than Europe and the United States. The UN’s latest efforts to reduce the spread of the disease seems likely to fail.
Eliminating HIV in This Region Isn’t Easy
Organizations like the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNAIDS have found success in reducing the number of HIV patients in the United States and other similar countries. However, those countries are resource-rich areas, where they have the means and money to educate and distribute HIV protection. Both organizations have tried to implement similar efforts in the sub-Saharan region.
WHO and UNAIDS sought to use treatment as a prevention method. The plan would treat HIV-positive individuals and reduce their ability to infect others. They hoped to diagnose and treat 90 percent of the people within the next three years.
Why Researchers Cast Doubt
Unfortunately, a study by UCLA researchers cast doubt on this plan, seeing it as unfeasible. The researchers used statistical mapping to find people infected with HIV in Lesotho. At least 1 in 4 people have HIV in this South African country. Similar to other South African countries, most people have gone without a diagnosis, nor are they receiving treatment. The scientists discovered that the plan couldn’t address the fact that HIV-positive individuals are widely dispersed within the country. Also, very little of the population lives in urban areas, making it hard to find these people.
“Global health policies for HIV elimination need to be redesigned, and they need to consider settlement patterns and population density,” said Sally Blower, director of UCLA’s Center for Biomedical Modeling. “Our results show that the spatial demographics of populations in predominantly rural countries in sub-Saharan Africa will significantly hinder, and may even prevent, the elimination of HIV.”
“We estimate that almost every settlement in the country has at least one HIV-infected person, and this holds true for even the smallest and most remote settlement,” said Brian Coburn, the study’s other co-author, who was a postdoctoral fellow in Blower’s group. “We also found that approximately 70 percent of HIV-infected adults live in rural settlements.”
With those in need of treatment so widespread, it becomes harder and more expensive to help them. For every rural location, there is an average of two or fewer people per square kilometer who is HIV-positive. The problem is reaching them.
The Importance of Finding a Great Plan
The researchers at UCLA are using their technology to find alternate plans that address these issues. Blower states that in order “To develop effective strategies, we need to figure out — throughout entire countries — where HIV-infected individuals live and which communities are connected to each other.” Hopefully, whatever plan the governments of Africa chooses can curb the epidemic plaguing the continent and eventually help in eliminating HIV.
There is one question that has eluded scientists for so many years. How does HIV integrate into human host DNA and replicate in the body? More than a decade later, researchers have found the answer. An HIV breakthrough at the Salk Institute has deciphered the structure of HIV machinery.
Intasome: The Machinery Making Trouble
HIV intasome is a large molecular machine that adds viral DNA into the genomes of its host. This machinery is responsible for HIV’s elusive nature and its ability to hide within the body.
According to Dmitry Lyumkis, senior author, and fellow at the Salk Institute: “HIV is a clever virus and has learned to evade even some of the best drugs on the market. Understanding the mechanisms of viral escape and developing more broadly applicable drugs will be a major direction in the future.”
Scientists have come up with a way to combat intasome before by using a drug called integrase strand transfer inhibitors (INSTIs). It is approved to treat the virus in both the U.S. and Europe. However, the drugs and HIV machinery are a bit of a conundrum. Without being able to study intasome on the atomic level, the drug’s effects are not as powerful as it should be, leaving scientist stumped on how it should work.
How This HIV Breakthrough Was Made
New technology allows us to do better things. The same is true within the scientific community. The state-of-the-art imaging technique called the single-particle cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM) gave researchers the ability to image large, complex and dynamic molecules. Basically, they were able to see intasome structure clearly.
The molecular machine is composed of a four-part core but has many other complex parts to it. The researchers believe that this allows it to gain access to the cell’s nucleus through active transport instead of waiting for the cell to divide. Lyumkis calls for understanding each of these parts a bit more to combat the disease.
Other than the brain, the heart is one of the most important organs in our body. It happens to also be a target for viruses like HIV. HIV positive individuals need to take caution and check on their heart regularly. A study shows that the risk for heart attack is much greater in those troubled by this disease.
Predicting Heart Attack Risk
The heart is vulnerable in America. At least, that is what the statistics say. Here are the facts that the CDC found:
- Every 43 seconds, someone in the United States has a heart attack.
- Every year, 735,000 Americans have a heart attack.
- Of those American, 525,00 are experiencing their first attack and 210,000 have experienced one before.
- One of 5 heart attacks is silent. This means that the patient is not aware it is happening but still suffers damage to the body.
These are truly awful facts. But what the scientists at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine have found may spell worse trouble for HIV patients. They are almost twice as likely to suffer from a heart attack, which more than what physicians have predicted for the general population.
Predicting the risk of heart attack is important. If a doctor discovers it early on, they can prescribe the right medicine to lower the risk. “If you have a higher risk for heart attack or stroke, your ability to benefit from one of these drugs is greater and justifies the possible side effects of a medication,” says Dr. Matthew Feinstein, cardiovascular disease fellow at Northwestern University.
Dr. Feinstein goes on to state that HIV increases heart risk by causing chronic inflammation, which can lead to plaque buildup in the body’s tissue. Eventually, this series of events in your body can lead to heart attack or stroke.
The current predictor tools for heart risk need to be adjusted. Heart medications are only given to those in serious need. If physicians cannot accurately tell if HIV patients need those medications, this will lead to dangerous consequences.
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.
One of the biggest concerns for anyone living with HIV is that their strain develops a drug resistance. The virus’ unpredictability is what makes this possible. Drug resistance is when HIV cells mutate and reproduce themselves despite the presence of antiretroviral drugs (ART). It often leads to treatment failure and a further spread of drug-resistant HIV.
HIV mutates on a daily basis. Many of these mutations are harmless. In fact, most of them actually put the virus at a disadvantage. Its ability to infect CD4 cells in the body slows down. Certain mutations, however, create an advantage when medication is used. They block drugs from working against the HIV enzymes they are designed to target.
A report by the World Health Organization (WHO) recently showed that drug-resistant HIV strains jumped to 10% in developing countries. In 2010, that number at 7%. Scientists are worried about this growing number. And they expect it to cause a lot more infections over the next 5 years. This is why WHO is putting together a Global Action Plan meant to combat this sudden rise.
Cutting down the development of resistance can happen in a lot of ways. HIV-positive people can reduce their risk by following these steps.
How to Prevent HIV Drug Resistance
- Follow Instructions Carefully – Medication needs to be taken exactly as prescribed. Skipping out on doses can cause a viral load increase. Taking an incorrect number of pills can also affect a person’s viral load.
- Stay Informed About Every Treatment Option – Knowledge is a great tool for any HIV patient. There’s great importance in learning about all the available treatment options. It can lead to finding out the best way to combat drug resistance.
- Keep Track of the Treatment’s Effects – Closely observing lab results goes a long way. This should be done every three months. The first sign of resistance is usually an increase of viral load. So, monitoring any change there would let people know if they have anything to worry about.
Small things such as these can help prevent your HIV from becoming drug resistant. Because staying vigilant is the best way to deal with a virus unpredictable.