ORLANDO, Fla. (Ivanhoe Newswire) — More than 1.1 million people in the U.S. is living with HIV. Yet one in seven of them don’t know it. One problem: men aren’t getting diagnosed. Now, there’s a new strategy to get these guys tested.
About 15 percent of people with HIV don’t know they have the virus! Doctors say this is a problem because an early diagnosis is the key to a better outcome. That’s because HIV …
“Is a very treatable condition if it’s caught early and treated early,” says Rachel Presti, MD, PhD with Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.
A simple blood test is all it takes to detect HIV, but many men don’t get tested. In a new study conducted in east Africa, researchers looked at whether giving pregnant women self-testing kits for their partners could boost testing rates. They found providing the kits along with an incentive to attend an HIV clinic did do the trick. After 28 days, just 17 percent of men in the control group were tested for HIV but 87 percent to 95 percent of those in the intervention group got tested.
“A lot of people still get diagnosed late, so they may have opportunistic infections that are hard to treat,” continued Dr. Presti.
Spotting HIV earlier can slow the spread of the virus, allow patients to get on medications sooner, and improve the odds of long-term survival. It’s a simple test that could save lives.
Studies show that people who are aware that they have HIV are less likely to engage in high-risk behaviors. Experts say the unaware HIV population is responsible for about 50 percent to 70 percent of new infections.
Contributors to this news report include: Julie Marks, Field Producer; Roque Correa, Editor and Videographer.
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GETTING MORE MEN TESTED FOR HIV
BACKGROUND: There were approximately 36.9 million people worldwide living with HIV/AIDS in 2017. Of these, 1.8 million were children younger than 15 years old. An estimated 1.8 million individuals worldwide became newly infected with HIV in 2017, about 5,000 new infections per day. This includes 180,000 children younger than 15 years. Most of these children live in sub-Saharan Africa and were infected by their HIV-positive mothers during pregnancy, childbirth or breastfeeding. HIV testing is an essential gateway to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support services. AIDS-related deaths have been reduced by more than 51% since the peak in 2004. In 2017, 940,000 people died from AIDS-related illnesses worldwide, compared to 1.4 million in 2010 and 1.9 million in 2004. Despite advances in scientific understanding of HIV as well as years of significant effort by the global health community and leading government and civil society organizations, too many people living with HIV or at risk for HIV still do not have access to prevention, care, and treatment, and there is still no cure.
WHO SHOULD GET TESTED?: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that everyone 13 to 64 years old get tested for HIV at least once as part of routine health care. As a general rule, people at high risk for HIV infection should get tested each year. Sexually active gay and bisexual men may benefit from getting tested more often, such as every 3 to 6 months. CDC recommends that all pregnant women get tested for HIV so that they can begin taking HIV medicines if they are HIV positive. Women with HIV take HIV medicines during pregnancy and childbirth to reduce the risk of mother-to-child transmission of HIV and to protect their own health. There are three types of tests used to diagnose HIV infection: antibody tests, antigen/antibody tests, and nucleic acid tests (NATs). How soon each test can detect HIV infection differs, because each test has a different window period. When an HIV test is positive, a follow-up test will be conducted. Sometimes people will need to visit a health care provider to take a follow-up test. Other times the follow-up test may be performed in a lab using the same blood sample that was provided for the first test.
BREAKTHROUGH FOR HIV-RESISTANT PATIENTS: One innovative drug is offering a new way to fight the virus and it may soon be on the market. Rather than interfering with binding, fusion, or entry of HIV into human T cells, the processes behind most ART therapies, Fostemsavir’s strategy targets a different step of HIV’s lifecycle by attacking the virus itself (rather than targeting T cells). Fostemsavir latches onto HIV’s gp 120 receptor, a protein that is exposed on the surface of the virus, and which plays an essential role in allowing HIV to hook onto T cells. By capping the receptors, Fostemsavir essentially locks them closed, preventing HIV from being able to attach, and thereby blocking entrance into the immune system. This new strategy, a first for HIV drugs, puts Fostemsavir in a new class of HIV drugs known as attachment inhibitors. Because of its unique mechanism of action, those who have developed resistances to other classes of anti-retrovirals are still unlikely to experience drug resistance to Fostemsavir. That’s particularly good news for long-term survivors and others who’ve become resistant to multiple classes of anti-retrovirals.
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