HIV sufferers in the dark over treatment and resistance issues

By Wai Lang Chu

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Antiretroviral drug Aids

According to the results of a new survey HIV patients are in the
dark about treatment options and the significance of drug
resistance, not only jeopardising their own health but also
potentially exacerbating the problem of limited treatment options.

The results will send a shock down US health authorities who believed they were winning the struggle to keep HIV/AIDS sufferers informed of the latest treatments and the threat of drug resistance.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) around 80 per cent of people being treated for HIV show resistance to one or more of the current drugs available and this figure is likely to rise as rate of infection soars and treatment options become increasingly limited.

"While great strides have been made in HIV therapy, resistance to anti-HIV medications continues to be one of the most significant challenges facing patients and physicians today,"​ said Howard Grossman, executive director, American Academy of HIV Medicine (AAHIVM) in Washington DC, which commissioned the survey.

"Everyone living with and affected by HIV should be concerned about drug resistance and aware of current strategies to minimise and manage its development, such as adherence to treatment regimens, use of resistance testing to help select the most active (or sensitive) regimen and selection of agents with a high genetic barrier to resistance. Ongoing patient-physician communication and education are both essential to successful implementation of these strategies."

In the survey, which involved questioning 385 physicians who treat HIV patients and 400 adults diagnosed with HIV/AIDS, 91 per cent of physicians were "extremely" or "very" concerned about HIV drug resistance, compared with 54 per cent of patients living with the disease.

Additional results saw 61 per cent of patients say they were knowledgeable about HIV drug resistance. 59 per cent were unsure if their virus had become resistant to any drugs and among those with resistant virus, 45 per cent did not know which classes of drugs were involved.

"Since the advent of highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) a decade ago, HIV has evolved from a near uniformly fatal to a more chronic, manageable disease,"​ said Martin Markowitz, clinical director, staff investigator, Aaron Diamond AIDS Research Center and Aaron Diamond professor, Rockefeller University.

"Patients have played a significant role in this evolution by educating themselves about the virus and standard of care treatments, spreading awareness, and advocating for increased public understanding of HIV/AIDS."

He added that after 25 years since the first diagnosis of HIV, the emergence of resistance to antiretroviral drugs is threatening progress.

He added that it was more important than ever that patients and physicians discuss this issue early on and consistently throughout treatment.

Sources of information and the way it was conveyed were also under scrutiny. Survey findings revealed that more patient-friendly language and a wider net of resources may be necessary to help close the gap in patient knowledge of HIV drug resistance.

Sixty-five per cent of patients said their physicians were their primary source of drug resistance information. HIV magazines (11 per cent), the Internet (10 per cent), and AIDS Service Organisations (ASOs) (six per cent) are also cited as information resources.

Related topics Preclinical Research

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