Saturday, April 09, 2005

Important info for people living with HIV

Marc and I were lucky enough (and luck certainly plays a role, no matter how careful you are!) to make it through our dating years without contracting HIV, but we have a number of friends who are living with the virus. With them in mind--and anyone else reading this who might be helped by the information--I thought this was worth sharing.

In the current issue of Johns Hopkins Magazine, there is an item that reads as follows:

Sudden, temporary spikes in the viral load of HIV-positive patients do not mean their viruses have mutated into drug-resistant strains. Hopkins researchers, led by professor of medicine Robert Siliciano, found that the so-called "blips" in viral load are actually mathematical variations that arise from the test that measures the virus in a patient's body. Unless the blips exceed 200 copies per milliliter of blood or persist upon repeated testing, patients do not need to make difficult changes in their anti-retroviral drug therapy. The study appeared in February's Journal of the American Medical Association.

I share this information with two thoughts in mind:

1) If you're living with HIV, this seems to give reason not to get too upset if you are told of one of these "blips" that shows an unexpected increase in your viral load. It may turn out to be of no consequence.

2) It could be important to know about this, so your doctor doesn't suddenly take a radical new approach before being sure it's absolutely necessary. Knowing doctors as well as I do (having worked in hospitals for years), and also having a habit of questioning my own doctor before letting him do anything I'm not 100% comfortable with, I know that they make mistakes. They make lots of mistakes. Also, your particular doctor may not have seen this study. So he/she may jump to an unwarranted conclusion.

So take this information for what it's worth. I hope it proves useful.


MattInTO said...

It's interesting. I'm sitting at this NSNA convention in Salt Lake City, Utah, and a resolution came up calling for the United States to increase funding for global HIV/AIDS programs worldwide. The resolution, if passed, would have gone to the White House, various organizations including the ANA, AMA, etc. And of course it didn't pass. And it didn't pass because of delegations from states like Texas and Florida complaining that "we should focus our efforts at home" and "we already spend enough money over there". At one point someone from Florida stood up and spoke against it, saying that she's sure a nurse from New York City works in similar conditions to sub-Saharan Africa - sub-par pay, no equipment, etc and would want her conditions corrected first. Apparently the twat has never been to New York. Many of my colleagues are starting out of school at 60-70K+, we have plenty of equipment and people who need HIV meds get them even if they can't afford them through various state programs. Ignorance. A terrible thing. It was a great resolution that should have passed and even my standing up on behalf of my state delegation in front of a 1000 students and refuting each of her arguments in my uniquely NYC way was not enough to sway the vote the Blue state way. Ah well. Ignorance is alive and well in the Red states.


"the" Mrs. Astor said...

You are a prince; I am one of the "lucky" ones who emerged from the eighties unscathed; and, yet, having to care for so many of my friends means I really didn't make it through. thanks, alexis

liz said...

Every time I see a physician for my asthma, I am reminded how they really are usually trained to focus on "treating symptoms" rather than focusing on seeking/maintaining health. It's so important to be highly informed about one's own health issues.

Matt_Sweet said...

My advice (for what it's worth, and that may not be much): If you doc says that your HIV has developed medication resistance, DEMAND a geno/phenotype. That way the good doctor will have the specifics of what medications will work, and which will not.