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Medical News

Facing HIV Is Easier With Skin Treatment

March 13, 2006

For some HIV patients, lipoatrophy, facial wasting associated with the disease and the medication prescribed for it, is a telltale sign of infection. The Food and Drug Administration in August 2004 approved Sculptra, an injectable form of poly-L-lactic acid, to improve this condition in HIV/AIDS patients.

While Sculptra allows patients to live without the visual stigma of illness, it is expensive. One treatment with the filler costs over $1,000, and patients need between three and six courses to achieve lasting results. Touch-ups are needed about every two years.

Dana Van Gorder, a lobbyist for the San Francisco AIDS Foundation, is pushing for California to cover Sculptra and other treatments, such as silicone, for lipoatrophy. "On a technical level, facial wasting is a byproduct of the HIV disease process as well as the treatment, so it ought to be dealt with as reconstructive surgery," said Van Gorder. Her concern is that HIV patients will delay or stop antiretroviral treatment for fear of developing lipoatrophy.

Kaiser Permanente offers Sculptra as a covered benefit, meaning its patients pay just $5 per treatment. Blue Cross of California, Pacificare, and Medi-Cal, the state's Medicaid program for the poor, cover Sculptra on a case-by-case basis if it is deemed medically necessary.

Dr. Mark DuLong, a plastic surgeon who offers Sculptra treatments at Kaiser Permanente Santa Clara, said the product has "been life-changing for some of these patients." "Lipoatrophy can limit you in what you feel comfortable doing," he said, "so it's not at all just a cosmetic issue."

Back to other news for March 13, 2006

Adapted from:
San Jose Mercury News
03.07.06; Yomi S. Wronge

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This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
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