Suspending HIV Treatment Brings Health Problems, Experiments Show
Research on new ways to treat HIV has included strategically stopping antiretroviral treatment to find a way so as to not have to take it for life. This has been studied in order to find a “functional cure” for the infection.
A functional cure, according to the Irsi Caixa AIDS Research Institute, is a scenario in which, although the virus has not been totally eliminated from the body, the immune system is able to control it without the need for drugs (as with other viruses).
For this reason, various clinical trials have tested the controlled and periodic interruption of treatment in people with HIV to see if the body’s defense system can be “trained” to contain the virus without help since up until now, antiretrovirals taken permanently are the only thing that can contain its advance in the body.
A research team at the Barcelona University Hospital, led by Dr. Valèria Richart, carried out an analysis on a group of 146 patients who had participated in ten studies that consisted of Analytical Treatment Interruptions (ATI) and compared it with another group of 45 patients who had never stopped their treatment.
From the studies reviewed, three had experimented with discontinuation of treatment without additional medication, two involved early use of certain drugs called cytostatics, and in the other five studies, treatment was interrupted to deliver a therapeutic vaccine.
Analyzing a 19-year period, the specialists found that patients who had ATI were four times more likely to develop serious events not related to AIDS, such as cancer, liver disease, and kidney failure.
The Numbers Speak
Among the results, it stands out that, while 42% of the group with ATI was hospitalized due to a condition not related to AIDS, only 22% of the other group required hospitalization for the same causes, according to the website aidsmap.com.
In terms of specific health problems, 21% of the diseases (not related to AIDS) in the ATI group were cancers, compared to only 4% in the other group. On the other hand, there were no cases of liver disease or final-stage kidney disease in the group without interruption, but the group with ATI had 8% and 9% of these conditions, respectively.
The research team concluded that, because the groups studied were small, their results do not mean that it is necessary to stop doing HIV treatment interruption studies, but rather that shorter withdrawal periods should probably be planned, and carefully monitor factors such as the amount of virus in the blood and the criteria for selecting the participants.
If you live with HIV and want to start or resume your antiretroviral treatment, at AHF Latin America and the Caribbean we can help you. Get in touch with the closest center to you.