And interesting new study reveals that HIV+ people may not need the regular monitoring of their virus now insisted upon by most doctors.
A paper published by The Lancet medical journal has revealed that patients who suffer from HIV may no longer need to have regular testing. The research showed that there was little difference between the survival rates of those who had their immune system tested every six months and those that weren’t tested at all.
The results may have a drastic impact on the west’s view on how HIV patients in developing are treated. In 2007, an estimated 33.2 million people lived with the disease worldwide, and it claimed the lives of an estimated 2.1 million people, including 330,000 children. Over three quarters of these deaths occurred in sub-Saharan Africa.
Scientists have argued that without constant tests antiretroviral drugs may become useless. As an increasing amount of antiretroviral drugs have been distributed across developing countries, some doctors worry that without lab monitoring patients will develop drug resistance faster.
Western HIV sufferers are tested every six months. When their immune system becomes particularly weak doctors may decide to change the combination of drugs. Andrew Phillips and colleagues from the Royal Free and University College Medical School in London used a computer model that simulated patient details based on HIV progression in real patients.
Phillips and his colleagues found that 83 percent of patients who were monitored with lab tests survived five years, compared with 82 percent for those who went without the tests. Over two decades, 67 percent of those who got lab tests survived versus 64 percent for those who didn’t.
The results will be welcomed by campaigners who would like to see more antiretroviral drugs sent to developing countries. However, some scientists are concerned that drug resistant forms of the virus may spread if large numbers of HIV sufferers take drugs that don’t work.
As the final paragraph notes, this news may have the greatest impact in the developing world where the limited funds are now split between providing drugs and follow-up testing. I doubt many American patients would willingly forego regular assurances that their virus is in check.