HIV drugs needed globally to control the disease long term

June 30, 2008

HIV has become a manageable chronic disease, but that is true only in developed countries with a relatively small number of HIV cases. It is possible to have a normal lifespan with controlled disease using the drugs that are currently available, but this treatment is needed globally, according to William Lynn, MD, Department of Infectious Disease, Ealing Hospital, London.

HIV has become a manageable chronic disease, but that is true only in developed countries with a relatively small number of HIV cases. It is possible to have a normal lifespan with controlled disease using the drugs that are currently available, but this treatment is needed globally, according to William Lynn, MD, Department of Infectious Disease, Ealing Hospital, London.

Most of the 2.1 million deaths from AIDS that occur annually are in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia. Recently, there has been evidence of a decrease in the number of new infections, which can be attributable to effective education campaigns about HIV or to massive numbers of deaths in the most severely affected areas of the world, according to Dr. Lynn.

Because of the evolution of treatment of HIV, the disease is now manageable over the long term and patients can expect a natural life expectancy. HIV-infected patients in the United Kingdom, for example, are experiencing the phenomenal effect of the newer therapies, he said. The number of patients living with HIV is steadily increasing, and there are relatively few (7,000 to 8,000) new cases each year. The associated health-care costs, however, are quite high and are expected to increase five-fold by 2030 in the United Kingdom.

"As we go forward, additional drugs should be developed," Dr. Lynn said. "With the currently available drugs, patients with HIV can be controlled for 30 to 40 years. However, this type of treatment is only available to a small number of patients who live in developed countries. This type of therapy is needed globally in areas where most of the cases are."