amfAR National HIV/AIDS Update Conference Focuses Attention on Epidemic Among Minorities, Women
The American Foundation for AIDS Research in Oakland, Calif., on Sunday began its four-day, 17th annual National HIV/AIDS Update Conference, which aims to focus attention on the epidemic among African Americans, Latinos, and women and girls, populations that comprise the "new face of HIV/AIDS," the Pleasanton Tri-Valley Herald reports. In the keynote address to about 2,000 HIV/AIDS researchers and advocates at the conference, Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) emphasized the need to examine "underlying factors," such as poverty, that might cause some communities to be "more vulnerable" to HIV/AIDS, according to the Herald (Vesely, Pleasanton Tri-Valley Herald, 4/12). "When we talk about AIDS prevention, we must also talk about the socio-economic environment in our country -- such as ending poverty, unemployment, homelessness, hunger, stigma, discrimination, ignorance and inequality -- in the same breath," Lee said, adding, "The sooner that we help the public and policymakers understand that HIV/AIDS is thriving in underserved communities because [of] neglect, homophobia and racism, the sooner we can get government to fight on our side against these inequalities" (Lee release, 4/11). A mistrust of the health care system and unequal access to new antiretroviral drug treatments also are "major" problems in addressing the HIV/AIDS epidemic in African-American communities, Dr. William King, director of the Clinical AIDS Research & Education Center at the University of California-Los Angeles, said at the conference (Pleasanton Tri-Valley Herald, 4/12).
A survey commissioned by amfAR and presented at the conference showed that HIV/AIDS patients with previous failure to respond to at least two antiretroviral regimens still have "high standards" for treatment success and need to discuss their treatment goals with physicians in order to find an appropriate drug therapy, according to an amfAR release. The survey -- which was conducted by Harris Interactive from Jan. 5 through Feb. 18 -- included 150 HIV/AIDS doctors who had been practicing for at least three years. The doctors recruited 115 HIV/AIDS patients ages 18 and older who took two or more antiretroviral drug combination therapies. The survey found that:
- 81% of HIV/AIDS patients and 57% of physicians viewed undetectable viral loads as "very important" to treatment success, according to the release;
- 57% of previously treated patients saw undetectable viral loads as very important, while 84% of physicians viewed it as an important goal regardless of the patient's treatment history;
- 88% of patients and 55% of doctors saw "significantly increased" CD4+ T cells as very important to treatment success, according to the release;
- 79% of patients expressed willingness to try an injectable medication if it suppressed the virus and increased their energy levels, and 85% felt they could maintain compliance;
- 68% of doctors reported "minor or major reservations" about prescribing an injectable medication -- with almost 20% saying they had major reservations -- and most cited compliance as their main concern, according to the release;
- More than 33% of patients said they would opt for an injectable medication over an oral medication if it would help them to achieve undetectable viral loads; and
- About 50% of patients would choose an injectable medication with possible site reactions -- such as small bumps, redness, itching and swelling -- over an oral medication with possible gastrointestinal side effects -- such as nausea and diarrhea.
The survey was conducted with support from the pharmaceutical companies Roche and Trimeris (amfAR release, 4/11). Trimeris and Roche jointly developed Fuzeon, an injectable antiretroviral that is in a class of drugs called fusion inhibitors and designed for HIV/AIDS patients who have failed to respond to other medications (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 3/14).
Webcasts of select sessions of the conference are available online from kaisernetwork.org's HealthCast. This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.