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Don’t Stop Taking Meds If And When You Drink!

About half of HIV patients on antiretroviral therapy skipped their medications whenever they were drinking alcohol, according to a U.S. study – an ill-advised behavior that researchers say could lead to higher viral loads.

The study, published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, for a year followed nearly 200 people with HIV who were on antiretrovirals and drank alcohol. It found that 51 percent stopped taking their medications while drinking.

Lapses could be due to forgetfulness while under the influence, but a widespread – and erroneous – belief that mixing alcohol and HIV drugs can be toxic appears to play a role.

“The harms caused by missing their medications far outweigh the harms caused by mixing the two, if the person doesn’t have liver disease,” said Seth Kalichman, a professor at the University of Connecticut and lead author of the study.

Drinking has been known to interfere with people’s adherence to their medications, but researchers said the consequences of inconsistent use of HIV medications can be more severe.

Antiretroviral drugs suppress the HIV virus, and patients must take the medications continuously to prevent the virus from surging. Additionally, going on and off the drugs can lead to drug resistance.

“People living with HIV who deliberately stop their medications when they are drinking are at risk for treatment failure,” the researchers wrote.

Kalichman and his colleagues surveyed 178 people – about four out of five of them men – who were currently using antiretroviral therapy and reported that they drank alcohol.

At the beginning of the study, the researchers asked the participants about their alcohol-related beliefs, such as whether they thought their drugs wouldn’t work as well if the two mixed. They also asked whether people would not take both at the same time, either by avoiding alcohol or the medicines.

Over the following year, the team checked in with patients every month to see how well they were sticking to their prescriptions through a pill count, and every other month they called to ask how often the patient had been drinking recently.

Doctors’ offices measured each patient’s level of virus and measures of immune system health.

They found that 51 percent of the patients would avoid the medications when they drank, and half of the people in this group had poor adherence to their prescriptions. In addition, half of the group that skipped pills said they wouldn’t take them again until the alcohol was out of their system.

People who skipped medications while drinking were also more likely to have higher levels of HIV in their bodies and lower numbers of CD4 cells, a measure of immune system health.

“I think it’s pretty well demonstrated that alcohol use is tied to poor adherence, and I think most people think it’s because they’re impaired in some way or they forget… whereas here it shows they’re (often) intentionally missing their medications,” said Catherine Grodensky, a researcher at the Center for AIDS Research at the University of North Carolina.

“And it looks like it’s having some significant impacts on their treatment.”

Original Article via Reuters

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New HIV Test is 10 Times More Sensitive and a Fraction of the Price

Scientists have developed a HIV test which is ten times more sensitive and a fraction of the cost of existing methods.

The test uses nanotechnology which alters chemicals to give a visual result by turning a sample red or blue, according to research from scientists at Imperial College in London published in the journal Nature Nanotechnology.

Molly Stevens who led the research said “Our approach affords for improved sensitivity, does not require sophisticated instrumentation and it is ten times cheaper,”.

Simple and quick HIV tests that analyze saliva already exist but they can only pick up the virus when it reaches relatively high concentrations in the body.

“We would be able to detect infection even in those cases where previous methods, such as the saliva test, were rendering a ‘false negative’ because the viral load was too low to be detected,” she said.

The test could also be reconfigured to detect other diseases, such as sepsis, Leishmaniasis, Tuberculosis and malaria, Stevens said.
Testing is not only crucial in picking up the HIV virus early but also for monitoring the effectiveness of treatments.

“Unfortunately, the existing gold standard detection methods can be too expensive to be implemented in parts of the world where resources are scarce,” Stevens said.

According to 2010 data from the World Health Organisation, about 23 million people living with HIV are in Sub-Saharan Africa out of a worldwide total of 34 million.

The virus is also spreading faster and killing more people in this part of the world. Sub-Saharan Africa accounted for 1.9 million new cases out of a global total of 2.7 million in the same year, and 1.2 million out of the 1.8 million deaths.

The new sensor works by testing serum, a clear watery fluid derived from blood samples, in a disposable container for the presence of an HIV biomarker called p24.

If p24 is present, even in minute concentrations, it causes the tiny gold nanoparticles to clump together in an irregular pattern that turns the solution blue. A negative result separates them into ball shapes that generate a red color.

That sensor used tiny gold stars laden with antibodies that latched onto the marker in a sample and produced a silver coating that could be detected with microscopes.

Stevens and her collaborator on the new test, Roberto de la Rica, said they plan to approach not-for-profit global health organizations to help them manufacture and distribute the new sensor in low income countries.

Original Story via Reuters

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