News / Africa

Treating HIV Positive Women

Samples of Nevirapine, an antiretroviral AIDS drug used since the 1990s, are displayed at the National Institutes of Health in Memphis, Tenn. (AP Photo/APTN)Samples of Nevirapine, an antiretroviral AIDS drug used since the 1990s, are displayed at the National Institutes of Health in Memphis, Tenn. (AP Photo/APTN)
x
Samples of Nevirapine, an antiretroviral AIDS drug used since the 1990s, are displayed at the National Institutes of Health in Memphis, Tenn. (AP Photo/APTN)
Samples of Nevirapine, an antiretroviral AIDS drug used since the 1990s, are displayed at the National Institutes of Health in Memphis, Tenn. (AP Photo/APTN)
Joe DeCapua
New research shows that a combination of inexpensive antiretroviral drugs can be very effective in treating HIV positive women in developing countries. In fact, new research shows the treatment is just as effective as a much more expensive drug combination. However, the study also shows the cheaper drugs can carry a greater risk side effects.

Antiretroviral drug treatment has proven effective in suppressing the AIDS virus and saving lives. The drugs have changed the prognosis of the disease from one of certain death – usually within 10 years – to a chronic illness.

In 2010, the World Health Organization recommended that treatment of HIV infected women in poor areas should include the drug navirapine. It’s inexpensive and is often used in preventing the transmission of HIV from mothers to their newborns.

Research at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston shows navirapine, in combination with other antiretrovirals, is just as effective as another combination that costs a lot more. Dr. Shahin Lockman led a study of 500 HIV infected African women who were in advanced stages of HIV/AIDS.

“There is very little known about the optimal regimen to use in persons living with HIV in resource-limited settings and in particular women living with HIV globally. The burden of HIV disease really is in resource-limited settings,” she said.

Resistance

Lockman is an associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. She said the study of the navirapine-based combination looked at possible drug resistance. It’s known that when navirapine is given to women by itself – not part of a combination – resistance can develop.

“Many women are diagnosed with HIV and first enter the HIV care system when pregnant. And they are then offered often just one or two antiretroviral drugs to try and interrupt transmission of HIV to their baby. But these drugs, in particular single dose navirapine, which a woman takes during labor and gives one dose to her baby, while somewhat effective in reducing transmission to the baby, leaves three-quarters of the women with detectable drug resistant virus,’ she said.

The question is did that same drug resistance to navirapine occur when combined with several other antiretrovirals? The answer is no. But there was other good news, as well.

“In the women who had not previously taken single dose navirapine about 83 percent of women were able to suppress their virus and stay alive and well after starting the navirapine based regimen. So comparing that to the best first line regimens that we have here in the U.S., where the success rate is closer to 90 to 95 percent, 83 percent is not perfect, but it’s solidly good,” said Lockman.

However, while it was not as good as regimens here in the U.S., it was as good as a much more expensive regimen that is available in some developing countries. The downside of the navirapine combination, however, is the side effects.

“A reasonable number of patients had to switch off of navirapine treatment because of toxicity. And that was not particularly surprising. So about 14 percent of the women had to stop navirapine because of toxicity,” she said.

Navirapine can be toxic to the liver and skin. Lockman said if treatment is not stopped soon enough after symptoms appear, women can develop a “life-threatening drug sensitivity reaction.” Women in the study were closely monitored, though, and given a different drug regimen if necessary. But women not in such a study and not closely monitored could be at risk. Some may simply stop taking the drugs and forego treatment. And without treatment, Lockman said, they will die. She added that women deserve better.

“We really do need to push to get safer, better tolerated more effective treatment accessible so that even if you only have one or perhaps two lines of treatment the majority of people who start these can stay on them for life without toxicity,” she said.

She estimated millions of women need such treatment. She said PEPFAR - the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief - and the Clinton Global Initiative are some of best efforts to achieve that goal. 

The study was funded in part by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and the National Center for Research.

You May Like

Video Analysts: Beijing Parade a 'Bazaar' of Stolen Technology

Show commemorating victory over Japan in World War II involved long, medium and short range missiles, a range of tanks and 200 fighter aircraft More

Bernie Sanders Surge Reflects US Shift on Socialism

Although most analysts say it is unlikely he will get the Democratic nomination, Sanders' campaign opens up questions and issues that are otherwise marginalized More

Video On IS Frontline, Kurdish Fighters Ready for Offensive

Peshmerga soldiers say although they need more heavy artillery, they are poised to take the fight to the Islamic State extremists on their turf More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Drowned Migrant Toddler Photo Triggers European Outragei
X
Henry Ridgwell
September 04, 2015 11:36 AM
The harrowing picture of a drowned three-year-old Syrian boy washed up on a Turkish beach appears to have galvanized Europe’s leaders into doing more to address the refugee crisis. France, Germany and Italy issued a joint call Thursday for compulsory quotas of refugees for all EU states. But there were chaotic scenes in Hungary as police tried to force migrants off a train heading for Austria. Henry Ridgwell has more. And a caution, some of the images in this report may be disturbing.
Video

Video Drowned Migrant Toddler Photo Triggers European Outrage

The harrowing picture of a drowned three-year-old Syrian boy washed up on a Turkish beach appears to have galvanized Europe’s leaders into doing more to address the refugee crisis. France, Germany and Italy issued a joint call Thursday for compulsory quotas of refugees for all EU states. But there were chaotic scenes in Hungary as police tried to force migrants off a train heading for Austria. Henry Ridgwell has more. And a caution, some of the images in this report may be disturbing.
Video

Video Russians Observe 11th Anniversary of Beslan School Attack

This week, Russians have been observing the 11th anniversary of the attack by Islamic militants on a school in Russia's North Caucasus region that killed more than 330 hostages, including 186 children. The three-day siege and massacre that started on September 1, 2004 took place in Beslan, a town in the republic of North Ossetia, and is one of the bloodiest terrorist acts ever in Russia. VOA's Mike Richman reports.
Video

Video Native Americans Debate: Father Serra, Saint or Sinner?

Pope Francis will canonize an 18th century missionary to Spanish California during a papal visit to the United States this month.  But some Native Americans have criticized the elevation to sainthood of the missionary priest, Junipero Serra. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan has more from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Calais School Offers Another Face of Europe’s Migrant Crisis

Europe is facing mounting criticism over how it’s handling its biggest migration crisis since World War II. But not all Europeans believe building walls or passing repressive policies are the answer. A school for migrants in the French port city of Calais, is opening doors and building bonds across nationalities. VOA's Lisa Bryant reports.
Video

Video Kurdish Fighters on IS Frontline Ready for Offensive

Finger on the trigger, the Kurdish Peshmerga soldier stared across the dust at a village taken over by Islamic State extremists. The Kurdistan’s Khazir frontline, just 45 minutes from the Islamic State stronghold of Mosul. And at this point, the militants were less than two kilometers away. VOA's Sharon Behn reports.
Video

Video China Announces Troop Cuts at WWII Parade

Chinese President Xi Jinping Thursday announced plans to cut the world’s largest military force by 300,000 troops. The announcement was made during a massive military parade to commemorate victory over Japan in World War II. The event was shunned by most Western leaders and for some is raising fresh concerns about China’s military ambitions. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video Russia-Japan Relations Cool as Putin Visits China for WWII Anniversary

Russian President Vladimir Putin is in Beijing for commemorations of the 70th anniversary of China's WWII victory over Japan. Putin is expected to visit Japan later this year, but tensions between Tokyo and Moscow over islands disputed since the war, and sanctions over Ukraine, could pour cold water on the plan. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Yemen ‘on Brink of Disaster’ as Medical Shortages Soar

Aid agencies warn Yemen is on the brink of humanitarian disaster – with up to half a million children facing severe malnutrition, and hospitals running out of basic medicines. There are fears Yemen's civil war could escalate as the coalition led by Saudi Arabia tries to drive back Houthi rebels, who seized control of much of the country earlier this year. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Apps Helping Kenyan Businesses Stay Ahead of Counterfeiters

Counterfeit goods in Kenya cost the government as much as $1 billion each year in lost tax revenues. The fake goods also hurt entrepreneurs who find it hard to carve out a niche in the market and retain customers. But as Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi, information technology is being used to try to beat the problem.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.

VOA Blogs