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November 22, 2008

Hurdles remain to making HIV testing as common as cholesterol tests

An article in the Star Tribune discusses some of the issues around the commonality of HIV testing. According to the article, in 2006 the CDC recommended that everyone between the ages of 13 and 64 routinely be tested for HIV, even if they may not be at risk. The article also reports that about one in five people infected with HIV do not know it. This is why it is so important to push routine testing.

Laws in some states are changing and some healthcare facilities are moving towards including HIV tests with other common blood tests, but there is still a long way to go.

November 16, 2008

Cure for AIDS??

An article by the AP in USA Today reports that doctors think they have cured a man with AIDS by doing a "targeted bone marrow transplant." The marrow was taken from a donor who had inherited a a genetic mutation from both parents that prevents HIV from attaching to cells.

A physician quoted from the Mayo clinic was skeptical that the treatment actually eliminated the virus from the man and said that more thourough tests would need to be done to be sure.

This article takes a risk by using the word "cured" in the title. While some people may believe that this man is "cured" it is not definite. That word carries a lot with it. It should be used carefully by the media because of the weight it carries and it should only be used when sufficient evidence is available to support the claim.

November 1, 2008

Study finds that HIV treatment should start earlier

An article in USA Today reports on the findings of a study that showed that HIV treatment should start earlier in order to improve survival rates.

The study looked at data from 22 other studies conducted between 1996 and 2006. A total of 8,374 patients were looked at and the results showed that those who received treatment later in the course of their HIV infection were 70% more likely to die than those who received treatment sooner.

The article reports that the current guidelines for treatment are to begin when the patients CD4 T-cells fall below 350 per cubic millimeter and that patients in the study "fared better" when treated when their CD$ T-cells were between 350 and 500 cells per cubic millimeter. Whether this guideline is actually followed by all doctors is not reported.

Anything that can be done to improve the quality of life and length of life for people with HIV should be done, but this article does not do a great job of explaining all of the parameters around the research and the benefits and risks of moving treatment earlier. Some treatments can cause people more hardships than not doing them because of cost and side effects from medication. This is definitely an issue that patients and doctors will have to talk about as they form a treatment plan so that the patient is getting the best quality of life that they can.

October 21, 2008

U prof links HIV treatment with increased chance of death

A recent article in the Minnesota Daily reports that a Universtiy professor was part of a study that shows that people receiving treatment for HIV have a higher risk of dying from non AIDS-related diseases.

The study looked at two different kinds of treatment, continuous treatment and intermittent treatment. With continuous treatment the person receives treatment no matter what their CD4 cell count is, but with intermittent treatment, the person receives treatment when their CD4 cell count is below a certain leve.

The study found that people who received intermittent treatment had the higher risk of dying from non AIDS-related diseases such as liver disease or cardiovascular disease. The study was stopped early due to the findings.

After the study was cancelled, the researchers discovered the reason that people receiving the intermittent treatment had a higher risk of death. When they received the treatment, certain protein levels would elevate. These protein levels are correlated with liver and cardiovascular disease.

The researchers note that more research needs to be done. This study does raise more questions about what the best form of treatment is for people with HIV. Based on this study, continuous treatment may be better, but it can be very expensive and the risk of taking medications everyday could have more harmful effects in the long run.

October 12, 2008

HIV has been around longer than we thought

A Star Tribune article announced that a new study in the journal Nature reports that HIV has been around since the early 1900s. It was previously thought that HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, first started infecting people around the 1930s, but it wasn't actually found in humans until 1981.

Two HIV samples were found in people in Kinshasa, Africa, in 1959 and 1960. These two samples were the only ones that have been discovered before 1976, which was a key discovery for the study.

California covering screening costs for HIV

An article in the New York Times reported that California health insurers are now required to cover the costs of HIV tests. The hope is that this law will help eliminate at least one barrier to getting tested. The California Office of AIDS reports that there are about 40,000 people in California infected with HIV that do not even know it.