January 26, 2010
A new study by researchers at the British Columbia Center for Excellence in HIV/AIDS shows a sharp drop in the prevalence of drug-resistant HIV among B.C. patients. From 1996 to 2008, drug resistance fell by more than 12-fold among the 5,422 patients involved in the longitudinal study.
"This is good news with big implications," said Dr. Richard Harrigan, lead author. Patients are on treatments that work, stopping the progress of the disease, he said.
"You can't imagine what it's like to be given your life back," said Tiko Kerr, who has had HIV for 25 years and was one of five B.C. patients who had to fight to receive then-experimental treatments. On one of the newer treatments he began in 2006, Kerr's viral load was cut by 90 percent.
"In the early days, people would have to take 30 pills a day," Harrigan said. "Now it's often just one pill a day."
"The main thing that we saw is that the [highly active antiretroviral therapies] are becoming more successful every year in keeping the level of virus in patients down below the level we can even detect," Harrigan said. "That prevents the virus from replicating, from making copies of itself and the disease doesn't progress," and it ensures fewer transmissions of resistant HIV, he said.
"Our results suggest an increasing effectiveness of highly active antiretroviral therapy at the population level," the authors concluded. "The vast majority of treated patients in British Columbia now have either suppressed plasma viral load or drug-susceptible HIV-1, according to their most recent study results."
The full study, "Improved Virological Outcomes in British Columbia Concomitant with Decreasing Incidence of HIV Type 1 Drug Resistance Detection," was published in Clinical Infectious Diseases (2010;50(1):98-105).