All these different names for each Protease Inhibitor are not helping anyone!!
You can tell if your HIV is becoming resistant to a protease drug by taking a viral load test. With this test, the lower your numbers, the better. The low end of the spectrum is considered to be 10-thousand and the high end is around 500-thousand, although there are people with viral loads of over 500-thousand. If your numbers stay the same or go up within a month, then the drugs aren't working very well for you.
Viral LoadsIt's more confusing if your viral load is low. Undetectable virus does not mean that the virus is gone or that the disease has been cured. It's still there, present in blood and tissue. The test used to detect it just isn't sophisticated enough to measure it.
Is the drug or your immune system, or both keeping your virus low? Talk to your doctor, and keep watching your viral load. In time, we hope to have a better understanding of how to use the viral load test.
Lots of people agree that PWAs with high viral loads and symptoms, who have taken AZT and other drugs for years, might want to try protease. Many argue that keeping HIV viral loads as low as possible is the key to survival whether you have symptoms or not. Others worry about getting strong resistance before having any symptoms. Taking combo anti-virals may keep your viral load low, or maybe your immune system would do that anyway. Maybe a strong protease and antiretroviral combo will kick you into some kind of remission, with no progression for years. Or maybe it will not change much, except to cause your HIV to become so resistant that you can't get any benefit from antivirals if your T-cells fall later on. WE DON'T KNOW!
Protease Inhibitors are NOT a cure for HIV infection or AIDS. People may continue to have illnesses associated with advanced HIV disease, including opportunistic infections (OI's)!
Protease inhibitors seem to do great things in many people. Many people are experiencing significant drops in their viral loads from taking protease inhibitors. But, there are many unanswered questions about how best to use the drug. We have to push drug companies and doctors alike to collect the kind of information that will help us make the best decisions. The companies promise useful, accessible patient assistance programs - don't hesitate to call them. Pressure local governments for ADAP and Medicaid coverage. A drug is no help at all if no one can get it or afford it. If Medicaid, your insurance company, or ADAP won't pay for these drugs, call the companies!
The PWA Health Group has a Women's Treatment Project offering practical HIV/AIDS information, community treatment forums and more. Contact Lorna Gottesman for more information.
The Women Alive Editorial team has added further comments based on information gathered from anything we could get our hands on including "Being Alive", community forums, Project Inform and "The AIDS Action Bulletin", the newsletter of:
AIDS Action Baltimore, Inc.
ADAP - The AIDS Drug Assistance Program is a state funded program administered by the L.A. County Department of Health Services.
This article was provided by Women Alive. It is a part of the publication Women Alive Newsletter.