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What Should I do When HIV Treatments are Failing Me?

Spring 1998

A note from TheBody.com: Since this article was written, the HIV pandemic has changed, as has our understanding of HIV/AIDS and its treatment. As a result, parts of this article may be outdated. Please keep this in mind, and be sure to visit other parts of our site for more recent information!

Hello to all the readers of the Women Alive Newsletter.

This is one of the most common questions that is now being asked: "What should I do now that my HIV therapy is failing me?" Well, there is no concrete information on exactly what to do.

Doctors are certainly scrambling to try and put a combination together. They are looking for ways to improve the health of their patients. This is especially important for the ones who have tried every combination of approved therapy and yet are still failing to respond to anti-HIV drug therapy.

Notice I stated, "to improve the health of the patient", which entails more than just boosting the immune system. The meanings of "health" include: physical health, intellectual health, emotional health, social and spiritual health. These are all connected to the healing of the body.

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Recycling Drugs

Some doctors are recycling drugs to their patients (using a drug which the patient had already used early on in the course of disease.) In some cases recycling these drugs has proven useful for a while but not usually for any significant length of time. Remember the HIV virus has seen these drugs before and could have developed some type of resistance to them.

When we speak of drug treatment failure of antiretroviral medication, some doctors and lay people almost always think of that word, "non-compliant." Well guess what? Every woman or man whose drug treatment therapy is failing them, is not necessarily non-compliant. There could be other reasons for failure, such as prior exposure to treatments or resistance -- or the way the medications are absorbed into the individual's body may be inadequate.

These are just a few examples why we might experience drug treatment failure. Of course there are also those individuals whose drug treatment fails, and yet they are still doing fine "clinically." The antiviral medications are not working as well as they should be, yet the individual is functioning normally. Doctors are not seeing opportunistic infections in many people who still maintain an active lifestyle. They may continue to work, attend school and function normally through a daily routine.


New Meds

There are some new medications which are still in the study phase, but hopefully will be approved by the FDA and available very soon. Some of the new drugs may indeed help those of us who are no longer responding to existing therapies. In other words, some of the new drugs may be an effective "salvage therapy." These drugs are being used now in the Expanded Access Programs: 1592, called Abacavir, 141w94, called Amprenavir, DMP266, called Sustiva, and there is something called Adefavir. If your drug treatment is failing you, don't be afraid to ask your provider for information in regards to these new drugs, the expanded access programs, or other drugs being studied in AIDS clinical trials. They just might help you.

If your provider is not familiar with how to enroll you in one of the drug studies or expanded access programs, here is a number you can call: Pacific Oaks Research, (310) 360-8800. Remember: YOU are the BEST ADVOCATE that you can have.

Also look into alternative or complimentary therapies, which we also call concurrent therapies because you can do these things while you are taking medications. Complimentary therapies such as acupuncture and massage may have some healing abilities and at least they make you feel better.

If you have any questions or you need assistance in advocating for yourself, please feel free to give me a call at Women Alive: 213.965.1564 or 1.800.554.4876. Ask for Marilyn.

A note from TheBody.com: Since this article was written, the HIV pandemic has changed, as has our understanding of HIV/AIDS and its treatment. As a result, parts of this article may be outdated. Please keep this in mind, and be sure to visit other parts of our site for more recent information!



  
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This article was provided by Women Alive. It is a part of the publication Women Alive Newsletter.
 
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