On July 15, over forty folks gathered for the first "Lunch and Learn" held by the Treatment Education Program in our new building at 139 Ralph McGill Boulevard. Tara Strawbridge, R.N., Medical Science Liaison for Serono Laboratories, talked about metabolic changes in persons living with HIV. She said that many patients with AIDS also have AIDS cachexia, a condition where the person is unusually tired, which may be the result of a loss of important tissue that makes up their muscles, organs and body fluid known as lean body mass.
In terms of overall health for people with chronic illness (i.e., AIDS, cancer and other similar illnesses), it important to maintain strong lean body mass. Normally the body adjusts to dieting or weight loss by burning stored fat to meet its needs. However, in people with AIDS cachexia, this process is not working properly. The body's metabolic system reverses saving fat and burning lean tissue to meet its energy needs.
Simply eating more may not stop AIDS cachexia or replace lean body mass. Although good nutrition and exercise play an important role in maintaining good health, these may not be enough. In some cases, prescription medications may be indicated.
Your healthcare provider will want to determine why you are experiencing AIDS cachexia before deciding what treatment is correct for you. He or she will probably run a series of tests to measure your testosterone level as well as BIA (Bioelectrical Impedance Analysis), a simple test requiring a few electrodes attached to a finger and toes to measure lean body mass. Your healthcare provider may prescribe nutritional supplement drinks or anabolic steroids and/or testosterone replacement therapy via injection, patch or gel. Another possible treatment may be the use of a twelve-week course of Serostim.
Many of us receive spam over the Internet advertising various forms of HGH (Human Growth Hormone), touting its properties as a panacea for everything from wasting to reversing the process of aging. Ms. Strawbridge explained that Serostim is the only Human Growth Hormone approved for use in AIDS cachexia. (And by the way, did not tout it as a miracle drug for any of the Internet's outrageous claims!)
HGH interacts with a variety of cells within your body. A twelve-week course of therapy has shown that Serostim can increase your lean body mass and body weight, when compared with patients not receiving the medication. These studies are not absolute; however, they are thought to be predictive of a medical benefit. The importance of using drug therapy to increase lean body mass and weight is also not completely understood. There are further studies being performed to determine whether increasing lean body mass with a twelve-week course of Serostim improves other things, like your strength and ability to keep up with daily tasks.
Additionally, Serostim should not be used to treat poor appetite, eating difficulties or your body's inability to absorb nutrients from food. Serostim should also not be taken after heart or abdominal surgery, a traumatic accident or experiencing respiratory failure.
Good nutrition is important to your overall health and well-being. Speak with a nutritionist or your doctor about how to maintain a healthy weight based on your current health and body condition.