New HIV treatments could make life easier for patients

HIV treatment options: Physician smiling and talking with patient

People currently treated for HIV typically take three to four medicines every day, but that could change with new HIV treatment options. “There is some new research that you could drop to only two medicines for treatment,” states Dr. Randy Gelow, a family medicine physician who specializes in HIV and LGBT specialty care at the Banner Health Center on Greenway in Phoenix.

Injectable medication may improve consistency

Injectable medications are the newest treatment that will come out for those living with HIV. The injections will probably be approved to last four weeks because the eight and 12 week long injections did not work as well, Dr. Gelow said.

Patients who receive the injections might need to come into the doctor’s office to get the shot instead of taking the medicine at home. It is yet to be determined how they will be administered.

The injections are beneficial for those who miss multiple doses of medicine. People who miss medication are at a greater risk of developing multi-drug resistant HIV which can be challenging to treat.

“Multi-drug resistant HIV is usually found in people who were diagnosed in the ‘80s or ‘90s and had breaks in their medication,” Dr. Gelow said.

“HIV also becomes resistant to drugs if patients inconsistently take their medicine, even if newly diagnosed.”

New antibody to fight against multi-drug resistant HIV

One new drug that is being developed by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and Paris-based pharmaceutical company Sanofi is meant to help those with multi-drug resistant HIV, Dr. Gelow said.

In a lab, they are creating a three-pronged antibody that will bind to the three critical sites on the HIV virus. Because the antibody will attack the virus from three sides, it is harder for HIV to mutate or become immune to the treatment.

When it was tested on monkeys with two strains of SHIV (the monkey form of HIV), the three-pronged antibody protected eight of them from infection. This antibody prevented “a broader range of HIV strains from infecting cells in the laboratory,” according to an NIH article.

A phase 1 trial is scheduled to begin in late 2018.

Drug to make virus dormant

Susana Valente, a Scripps Associate Professor, tested a drug that gives a “functional cure” for HIV. Her new treatment makes the virus dormant.

Her research found that the drug compound, called didehydro-Cortistatin or dCA, suppressed HIV in mice to the point that if medication was stopped, the virus did not immediately return. Valente also said dCA helps to stop the neurological deterioration caused by HIV.

Her treatment now needs to go to a clinical trial and be tested on people who have HIV.

“dCA is a possible next line agent, but a lot of these haven’t been tested on humans,” Dr. Gelow explained. “The research is about testing the medicine invitro and with animals, but humans are different so it might not work as planned.”

Vaccine to prevent HIV

A vaccine to prevent HIV might hit the market in a few years, Dr. Gelow said.

The researchers have not started the human trials yet, but the first phase will begin at the end of the next year.

If it is successful in people, it could come out in three years, Dr. Gelow said.

With each new medicine, the side effects are greatly reduced, making it more pleasant for people with HIV.

Dr. Gelow said the older treatments caused nausea, diarrhea, skin rash, pancreatitis, depression and insomnia. Patients would also need to take medication multiple times a day.

Testing is still important

Even if you don’t think you have HIV, you should still get tested. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 1.1 million people in the United States are living with HIV and 1 in 7 don’t know it.

“I think it is important to routinely screen for HIV,” Dr. Gelow said. “Even if someone thinks they are at a low risk, it is better to know than to guess.”

It is possible to get HIV/AIDS through:

  • Sexual contract
  • Blood contamination
  • Needles
  • Mother-infant: HIV can spread to babies born to, or breastfed by, mothers infected with the virus.

If you want to be tested for HIV, you can go to urgent care, a hospital, or your provider. For more information, visit Banner Health to find an urgent care or infectious disease location.

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