Posts tagged controlling HIV

A serious clinician studying a microscope, trying to make an HIV breakthrough.

HIV Breakthrough Deciphers the Structure of the Virus

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A serious clinician studying a microscope, trying to make an HIV breakthrough.

An HIV breakthrough may have solved the structure of intasome.

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.

The screen of an EKG machine, showing the line moving towards a cartoon image of a heart. This patient shows no risk of heart attack.

Heart Attack: HIV Patients at Nearly Double the Risk

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The screen of an EKG machine, showing the line moving towards a cartoon image of a heart. This patient shows no risk of heart attack.

HIV patients need to be cautious of their heart attack risk.

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.

inspirational-hiv-quotes

Inspirational HIV Quotes That Promote Positivity

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An illustration of an HIV/AIDS ribbon shaped into a heart. A fitting sentiment for inspirational HIV quotes.

Below are a few of our favorite inspirational HIV quotes.

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.

What You Should Know About HIV Drug Resistance

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An image of HIV cells. Because of drug resistance, they become stronger.

How do you combat HIV drug resistance?

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.

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Image of doctor hand on patient shoulder

Improving Linkage to Care is the Next Goal for HIV Treatment

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A doctor consoling a patient. Attention like this is important in Linkage to Care.

Here’s how to improve Linkage to Care.

Linkage to Care (LTC) is the three-month period of time between diagnosis and medical treatment for HIV. Groundwork is laid for future treatment during this time. Newly-diagnosed patients need to understand the ins and outs of their diagnosis. It’s a crucial part in such a transitional time in their lives.

Studies have shown a wide range of information regarding how many HIV patients are getting LTC. The number is often between 59% and 80%. Many consider this to be too low a number either way. This has prompted more developed nations to set their Linkage to Care rate to 90% by 2020.

The World Health Organization (WHO) stresses the importance of providing a service built around the health needs of those living with HIV. A diagnosis of this magnitude can make a patient feel vulnerable. Consequently, WHO believes treating them with dignity goes a long way.

WHO recently gave a list of suggestions that studies suggest would help improve LTC. Here is what they find to be most helpful.

Steps to Help Increase Linkage to Care

  • Streamlined interventions to reduce the time between diagnosis and engagement in care. This includes enhanced linkage with case management and support for HIV disclosure.
  • Carrying out routine viral load testing 6 months and 12 months after Antiretroviral Therapy (ART). If the patient is stable on ART, then every 12 months would be all that’s necessary.
  • Improving the data used to identify the linkage’s quality.
  • Less frequent clinic visits for those stable on ART. As a result of ART working for them, every 3-6 months would be sufficient.
  • Programs that provide community support boosts retention in care. Methods suggested for them to use include: interventions, peer counselors, and mobile communication.

When Linkage to Care is initiated early for HIV patients, better medical treatment is possible. Increasing the amount of people who receive earlier treatment is a great first step in managing the disease.

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