Bi-monthly HIV treatment succeeds in homeless people
People who are homeless, who use drugs or who experience mental health problems are especially vulnerable to HIV. In general, they are populations that suffer from a great social stigma, which is repeated in the institutions and health services, which prevents them from receiving adequate care.
These three groups are among the key populations that require special attention in HIV control strategies. In search of actions that improve outcomes, the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) conducted a study on the effectiveness of new long-acting antiretroviral drugs in these populations.
The research was presented within the framework of the Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections, the most important conference on medical issues related to HIV.
According to an NIH news release, the goal of the study was to reach people who have historically had the least access to antiretroviral treatment, including those who use drugs, have mental health problems, or lack stable housing.
Long-acting antiretroviral, which are injectable, are given once every four to eight weeks, so they can help these populations overcome the barriers they encounter on a daily basis in accessing treatment.
However, the only treatment of this type that has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), it is only authorized to be given to people who are taking antiretroviral by mouth and who, as a result, have reached the suppression of the virus, meaning the amount of HIV in your blood has been reduced so much that it is now at undetectable levels.
This means that, under current conditions, people who have problems following their treatment correctly, as is frequently the case among the aforementioned populations, are not eligible for this treatment.
Good control option
The research included 133 people with HIV from the city of San Francisco, California, regardless of whether they were on antiretroviral treatment or had virus suppression. In June 2021 they began receiving the long-acting treatment. At that baseline, 43% of participants had untreated HIV infection or the virus was not suppressed.
The health status of each participant was checked every two weeks and regular outreach activities were held to remind people of their appointment date for a new injection.
Of those who started the study without being virally suppressed, 96.5% achieved viral suppression in an average of 33 days. Only two study participants did not achieve or did not maintain viral suppression, that is, 1.5%, the same percentage that had already been observed in studies carried out in people taking oral antiretroviral.
The average age of the participants (88% of whom were men) was 45 years. 58% of them said they did not have stable housing, 8% said they had been homeless, 38% declared they had a mental problem and 33% said they used drugs.
Several studies have shown that starting antiretroviral treatment as soon as possible and not interrupting it has great benefits for the person with HIV and provides an additional positive effect in the community, since it prevents the transmission of the virus through the sexual route.
However, social barriers, such as stigma, continue to prevent treatments from reaching all those who need them, especially those who are part of the most vulnerable populations. Research such as this provides information on the great effectiveness of long-acting antiretroviral treatment in groups that have not yet been studied.
HIV treatment is the route by which people with the infection achieve a long and good quality life. If you already have a diagnosis, but you have not started your treatment, or if you suspended it and want to resume it, come to AHF Latin America and the Caribbean and we will help you obtain it. Locate our offices in your country or write to us by Whatsapp.