Posts tagged HIV treatment

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How HIV Vaccine Development Looks in 2017

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This is an illustration of a syringe. It's a symbol for HIV vaccine development.

What does the future hold for HIV vaccine development?

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.

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Why Gay Men Need to Take the HPV Vaccine

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An image of medicine and an HPV Vaccine on top of a paper that says 'papilloma virus'.

Have you gotten your HPV vaccine?

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.

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90-90-90 Program: UNAIDS Treatment Plan for HIV

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An image of an AIDS awareness ribbon, making people aware of AIDS and operations like the 90-90-90 program.

The 90-90-90 program is just one of many trying to help people manage AIDS.

Research has uncovered information about HIV that has allowed progress to be made in the battle against this terrible disease. Vaccines and new approaches in medicinal therapies are being developed and tested. This process, as promising as it is, could take years before producing anything of use to the public. Despite these scientific breakthroughs, there are still pressing matters needing immediate attention. In an effort to address these matters, UNAIDS has move forward with a treatment plan called the “90-90-90” program might be implemented on a worldwide scale. But the 90-90-90 program has some obstacles to overcome—the largest one being the cost.

What Is the 90-90-90 Program?

The 90-90-90 program has three main objectives. First, to give a diagnosis to 90% of individuals with an HIV infection. The second goal is starting 90% of HIV-positive patients on antiretroviral therapy. The third objective is to have 90% of those on antiretroviral medications achieve viral suppression (making viral presence undetectable). The program has high aspirations that, if achieved, could mean a significant effect on the increasing number of new infections every year. Another byproduct of the program would be fewer children orphaned by the devastating effects of HIV and AIDS. It is hoped that with early detection and immediate treatment, more lives will be saved. The number of infections transmitted would be reduced as well if treatment was adhered to, and viral loads were sufficiently reduced.

Computer models have been used to help predict the results that this program would have over the next five to ten years. The 90-90-90 program would potentially prevent over 2 million new infections. Over 1.5 million children would not have to face the prospect of being orphaned. Millions of lives would be saved. What stands in the way of the program being set up around the world?

Money. The cost is very high, by some estimates over 40% more than what is currently being spent on similar efforts—bringing the total to $54 billion. Based on computer simulations, the program could be enough to bring the epidemic caused by HIV to an end. So while it would be an expensive venture, experts agree that the benefits would be worth it.

An illustration of a a man's brain with several red dots flaring off. These may be neurological issues.

Neurological Issues May Be Among HIV’s First Symptoms

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An illustration of a a man's brain with several red dots flaring off. These may be neurological issues.

Neurological issues may be a telling sign that someone has HIV.

Neurological issues have been noted in patients who had recently been infected with HIV. There are a host of conditions that are associated with HIV infection and disease progression. Most treating physicians are aware of many of these and keep a close eye on their HIV-positive patients. However, it was recently noted that as early as just a few days after the infection, certain symptoms and issues can present in patients not yet diagnosed or treated for HIV infection. Many have been diagnosed with HIV after presenting with neurological symptoms.

A Study Reveals How Common Neurological Issues Are

In a recent study, a group of individuals was followed to find out more about early HIV infection and its effect on the nervous system. Participants all had recently been infected. For some, it had been only a few days, and for others, it was up to two months since the time of infection. Out of those followed, over half presented with neurological issues, including neuropathy (disease of the nervous system), cognitive trouble, and motor difficulties. In many instances, patients had experienced more than one type of the mentioned issues. In rare instances the conditions were severe.

The Benefits of Treatment in Reducing Neurological Symptoms

Such early stages of infection are generally undetectable by standard HIV testing as the immune response has yet to build. Neurological symptoms were noticed before any others in most cases. Once antiretroviral therapies were started, 90% of the neurological issues were resolved. For some, lingering symptoms were observed even after months of treatment. When researchers compared the lab tests, those with persistent symptoms also had higher viral levels in the blood. These findings show that the virus has a profound effect on the nervous system. The good news, however, is that most of the conditions cleared up with treatment.

Study on the subject is ongoing. Other issues as well are brought to light. For example, in the development of new treatments against HIV, researchers are considering taking into account the role of the brain and nervous system. Some theorize that latent HIV could be lurking in these areas, therefore causing issues early on. So new questions are raised, and delving further into the topic continues.

Making HIV Testing Acceptable to Patients

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Around the globe, 37 million individuals are HIV-positive. While that figure is staggering enough, it is estimated that nearly half of all infections are left undiagnosed. Advancements in therapies, preventative education, and a better understanding of how the disease works, all aid in slowing the epidemic. However, if the infection is left undiagnosed, it works against progress, and millions could be at risk for exposure or infection.

With this is mind, researchers have been looking into simple ways to encourage patients to be tested for HIV. They are hoping that what they learn will help medical institutions around the world to be able to convince more people to agree to screening.

Asking Patients the Right Way

It is all in the approach. This is what has been most notable throughout these studies. How a question is phrased can make the difference between someone agreeing to HIV testing—or refusing the exam. Basically, here are three ways to approach:

  • Notifying the patient that testing for HIV is available, and that he or she could request the test if they wanted (also called the opt-in approach). This approach yielded the poorest result, with just over one-third of those asked accepting an exam.
  • Using the “active choice.” In this instance, a patient was asked directly if he or she would like an exam. This second phrasing came up with better results than the first. Over half of the patients who were asked directly, agreed to the testing.
  • The “opt-out” approach simply informed patients that they would be tested for HIV unless they declined. Two-thirds of those who were informed this way were tested, making this approach the most successful.

The Right Method Gets Results

During these trials, patients who were in higher risk categories were more likely to agree to testing than those in lower risk groups. This reaffirms that how a patient is asked can make a big difference in the outcome. It is not completely understood why patient behavior varies with how questions are phrased, but a few simple changes in how healthcare workers ask their questions can do a lot of good.

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