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More on Gender and Viral Load
Special Issue: Dealing with Drug Side Effects

June 2000

Back in March of 1999, WISE Words explored the issue of gender differences in HIV levels. This issue came to the forefront back in December 1998 when a study reported that women may progress to AIDS with half the viral level of men. Since then, conflicting findings about possible differences in viral load between women and men have emerged.

Earlier this year, Project Inform co-sponsored a meeting with the National Institute of Health's Office of AIDS Research and the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development to determine whether there is enough evidence to support claims that there is a gender difference in viral load. Participating in the meeting were HIV researchers, physicians, and women living with HIV.

Based on an extensive research review, meeting participants concluded that observed differences in viral load are real and present in early stages of HIV infection and disease. These differences may lessen or disappear within five years after initial HIV infection, however.

The significance of these differences remains unknown. Because of this and because there is increasing debate about the best time to start anti-HIV therapy, the meeting concluded that at this time, recommendations for treating HIV-positive women should not be changed. In essence, recommendations should remain the same for both men and women. However, participants agreed that discussion of these differences should be greatly expanded in the Federal Guidelines for using anti-HIV therapy and should be taken into consideration when starting treatment.

There were other interesting findings presented at the meeting. For more information on this meeting, see "Meeting Explores Gender Differences in Viral Load" in Project Inform's most recent PI Perspective, available in July by calling Project Inform's HIV/AIDS Treatment Hotline at 1-800-822-7422 (or check back here).

Back to the Project Inform WISE Words June 2000 contents page.

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