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 As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Before burial at overflowing cemeteries, unidentified dead being swapped for DNA, in case some day relatives come to learn their fate

    Russian Opposition Leader Sues Putin for Conflict of Interest

    Alexei Navalny tells VOA in exclusive interview why transfer of $2 billion from country’s wealth fund to company with ties to President Putin’s son-in-law triggered lawsuit

    How Diversity Has Changed America

    Over the past four decades, the level of diversity in the United States has increased most in these four states

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Filli
    X
    Hamada Elsaram
    February 11, 2016 8:01 PM
    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video As Refugees Perish, Greek Graveyards Fill

    Aid workers on the Greek island of Lesbos say they are struggling to bury the increasing number of bodies of refugees that have been recovered or washed up ashore in recent months.  The graveyards are all full, they say, yet as tens of thousands of people clamor to get out of Syria, it is clear refugees will still be coming in record numbers. For VOA, Hamada Elrasam reports from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video To Fight Zika, Scientists Target Mosquitoes

    Mosquitoes strike again. The Zika virus outbreak is just the latest headline-grabbing epidemic carried by these biting pests, but researchers are fighting back with new ways to control them. VOA's Steve Baragona takes a look.
    Video

    Video Mosul Refugees Talk About Life Under IS

    A top U.S. intelligence official told Congress this week that a planned Iraqi-led operation to re-take the city of Mosul from Islamic State militants is unlikely to take place this year. IS took over the city in June 2014, and for the past year and a half, Mosul residents have been held captive under its rule. VOA's Zana Omar talked to some families who managed to escape. Bronwyn Benito narrates his report.
    Video

    Video Scientists Make Progress Toward Better Diabetes Treatment, Cure

    Scientists at two of the top U.S. universities say they have made significant advances in their quest to find a more efficient treatment for diabetes and eventually a cure. According to the International Diabetes Federation, the disease affects more than 370 million people worldwide. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video NATO to Target Migrant Smugglers

    NATO has announced plans to send warships to the Aegean Sea to target migrant smugglers in the alliance's most direct intervention so far since a wave of people began trying to reach European shores.
    Video

    Video Russia's Catholics, Orthodox Hopeful on Historic Pope-Patriarch Meeting

    Russia's Catholic minority has welcomed an historic first meeting Friday in Cuba between the Pope and the Patriarch of Russia's dominant Orthodox Church. The Orthodox Church split with Rome in 1054 and analysts say politics, both church and state, have been driving the relationship in the centuries since. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
    Video

    Video Used Books Get a New Life on the Streets of Lagos

    Used booksellers are importing books from abroad and selling them on the streets of Africa's largest city. What‘s popular with readers may surprise you. Chris Stein reports from Lagos.
    Video

    Video After NH Primaries All Eyes on South Carolina

    After Tuesday's primary in New Hampshire, US presidential candidates swiftly turned to the next election coming up in South Carolina. The so-called “first-in-the-South” poll may help further narrow down the field of candidates. Zlatica Hoke reports.
    Video

    Video US Co-ed Selective Service Plan Stirs Controversy

    Young women may soon be required to register with the U.S. Selective Service System, the U.S. government agency charged with implementing a draft in a national emergency. Top Army and Marine Corps commanders told the Senate Armed Services Committee recently that women should register, and a bill has been introduced in Congress requiring eligible women to sign up for the military draft. The issue is stirring some controversy, as VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports from New York.
    Video

    Video Lessons Learned From Ebola Might Help Fight Zika

    Now that the Ebola epidemic has ended in West Africa, Zika has the world's focus. And, as Carol Pearson reports, health experts and governments are applying some of the lessons learned during the Ebola crisis in Africa to fight the Zika virus in Latin America and the Caribbean.
    Video

    Video Smartphone Helps Grow Vegetables

    One day, you may be using your smartphone to grow your vegetables. A Taipei-based company has developed a farm cube — a small, enclosed ecosystem designed to grow plants indoors. The environment inside is automatically adjusted by the cube, but it can also be controlled through an app. VOA's Deborah Block has more on the gardening system.
    Video

    Video Illinois Voters Have Mixed Emotions on Obama’s Return to Springfield

    On the ninth anniversary of the launch of his quest for national office, President Barack Obama returned to Springfield, Illinois, to speak to the Illinois General Assembly, where he once served as state senator. His visit was met with mixed emotions by those with a front-row seat on his journey to the White House. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
    Video

    Video Exhibit Turns da Vinci’s Drawings Into Real Objects

    In addition to being a successful artist, Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci designed many practical machines, some of which are still in use today, although in different forms. But a number of his projects were never realized — until today. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Heated Immigration Debate Limits Britain’s Refugee Response

    Compared to many other European states, Britain has agreed to accept a relatively small number of Syrian refugees. Just over a thousand have arrived so far -- and some are being resettled in remote corners of the country. Henry Ridgwell reports on why Britain’s response has lagged behind its neighbors.
    Video

    Video Russia's Car Sales Shrink Overall, But Luxury and Economy Models See Growth

    Car sales in Russia dropped by more than a third in 2015 because of the country's economic woes. But, at the extreme ends of the car market, luxury vehicles and some economy brands are actually experiencing growth. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.