AIDS was immediately dubbed ‘Gay Cancer’ because it seemed to only concern the gay community. Soon though, many cases started to occur amongst drug users, hemophiliacs and heterosexuals but decades on AIDS is still branded with the homosexual lifestyle. The stigma of AIDS still continues today, and because of this many homosexual and bisexual men do not want to get tested for fear of the stigma against HIV Positive men.
Thirty years later, the list of anti-retroviral drugs has grown immensely as shown by the FDA and have had sufficient time to prove their efficiency, especially since 1996 with the introduction of combination therapy, these therapies have evolved into just one tablet a day, however, they can cost several hundred dollars per month. The best known of these medications is Atripla.
The price of Atripla (March 2011 US$1,850 and the cost to the UK NHS £620 per month) and most of its competitors mean that the therapy can only be provided to patients in affluent countries with a good social care or reimbursement for treatment. Developing countries benefit from small donations or treatment to about half the price, which means it is still inaccessible to almost all patients. These patients must rely on older treatments which are not as well supported by the human body and therefore may not have the desired affect or have more adverse side affects. Even the more recent anti-retroviral drugs are minimal in these countries due to a lack of resources and political will. Large laboratories hinder the use of generic drugs and the major powers are reluctant to find these drugs themselves.
Combined therapies have saved thousands of lives, they reduce the spread of the pandemic and allow HIV & AIDS patients to live normal lives. But we are only part way there. So far, there is still no actual cure or preventative medicine available. With scientific advances we hope that in the not too distant future a cure will be found.
For the moment, treatment is available for those who feel they may have been exposed to the virus in the form of PEP (Post-Exposure Prophylaxis) but treatment must begin within 1 hour to (and no more than) 72 hours of exposure, this treatment is thought to reduce the risk of seroconversion, but treatment has been known to fail in the past, it is believed that this may be due to the level of exposure and the delay between exposure and treatment.
The other major obstacle to widespread use of therapies is the lack of information and sexual health promotion. Lack of information leaves the door open for misinformation, simplistic reasoning, hasty judgments and stigma. The mere fact that the website of Atripla is theoretically reserved for over 18’s is quite revealing.
Philca & Matt / MensGo