Monday, March 4, 2013
Out of Context: "cure" of infant could lead to misuse of ARV's.
By: Aaron M. Laxton, HIV-Infected Queer, Activist & Blogger
Almost immediately upon news that a child had "cleared" the virus that causes AIDS, news stories captured everyone's attention. It is captivating due to the fact that people want so badly to have a cure and the media sensationalizes anything that can get ratings and viewership. I am not saying that the media is bad however there was one thing that stood out to me when I first read the story. A 2 1/2 year old girl that was treated within 30 hours of birth and subsequently was able to clear the virus within her immune system. How long will it be before patients get the idea that they will be able to increase their antivirals and somehow get "cured". While this may sound like a crazy thought, it can also be a deadly thought since the medications that we take are highly toxic when taken in large amounts.
My fear is that it will only be a matter of time before we see patients that deviate from the prescribed dosages of their medications and subsequently cause catastrophic damage to their renal system as well as liver damage. I hope that my fear is unfounded and that people will not take the information provided out of context.
The greater message that needs to be relayed to the community is that 1 in 5 people who are infected with HIV are unaware of it. HIV is well managed with early detection through testing and treatment. Additionally there is no reason why in 2013 a person is not getting tested and treated for HIV or that people progress to AIDS. In the United States there are still approximately 50,000 AIDS related deaths each year and approximately 50,000 new HIV infections.
If you are a patient that has read the stories regarding the toddler from Mississippi and you are even considering changing your medications arbitrarily please don't. While the child was given large doses of ARV's it was done under medical supervision and this is not appropriate for all patients. The child was able to clear the HIV virus due to her immune system lacking memory T Cells that develop in a mature immune system. The report will undoubtedly impact how we treat pediatrics which will greatly reduce the 330,000 mother-to-child transmissions that occur around the world annually.
Patients need to continue their medications as prescribed with complete compliance and adherence. I will continue to preach the gospel of "test and treat". To find a testing center near you text your zip code to "knowit" and the closest testing site will be texted to your phone.