AIDS: drug is said to protect against HIV infection

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The majority of AIDS sufferers have been infected with HIV during unprotected sex. on the occasion of World AIDS Day. In this context, a pharmaceutical company has presented a new drug that is supposed to protect against HIV infections. The new drug is, however, heavily criticized.

After the Robert Koch Institute (RKI) pointed out in the run-up to World AIDS Day that around 3,000 people in Germany are still infected with HIV every year and a total of around 70,000 people with AIDS live in Germany, the discussion is about the right preventive measures and dealing with those concerned in full swing. Deutsche Aids-Hilfe said that around 90 percent of those infected with HIV contracted unprotected sexual intercourse. The initiators of the World AIDS Day added that society's handling of the topic of AIDS is still difficult to this day. Because many people underestimate the risk of infection and the reaction of others to an illness in their personal environment is often lacking understanding, rejection or exclusion, according to the experts.

World AIDS Day campaign
For World AIDS Day, Deutsche Aids-Hilfe is therefore launching the nationwide campaign "Live together positively - but safely", which on the one hand should help to reduce stigmatization and discrimination against those infected with HIV and, on the other hand, would like to sensitize the population to effective self-protection. Because, according to the German Aids Aid, around 90 percent of those affected have contracted unprotected sex, most of which are male. Contrary to widespread prejudice, it is by no means only gays who are affected, but also heterosexual men. However, with around 42,000 of the 70,000 infections in total, homosexual men are still by far the largest proportion among those infected with HIV, according to the RKI. Condoms offer effective protection here that could have prevented infections during sexual intercourse, Deutsche Aids-Hilfe continued. "Everyone (...) is responsible for himself and can protect himself," emphasized Bernhard Eberhardt from Aids-Hilfe.

30 percent of those infected with HIV do not yet know about their infection As Waltraud Schwendele from Deutsche Aids-Hilfe said in a press conference, “about 30 percent of those infected (...) do not yet know about their infection”. That is why Deutsche Aids-Hilfe as well as the doctor Cornelia Otto from the health office appeals to people who have had unprotected sex with fleeting acquaintances to be tested. On the one hand, this would reduce the risk of infection for others, because those affected often ignorantly transmit the pathogen and, on the other hand, they would improve the treatment opportunities for themselves. The earlier the infection is recognized, the more options there are in therapy. Bernhard Eberhardt said: "AIDS can be avoided today if treatment starts early." Cornelia Otto, the doctor from the health department, emphasized that the medication had also gotten better, meaning that the effectiveness had increased and the side effects had been reduced. Today, the patients sometimes get by with one tablet a day, although it used to be "in the past (...) sometimes 20", the expert explained.

With optimal treatment, an HIV-infected person has so few viruses in the body today that he can hardly pass them on, added Waltraud Schwendele. In order to identify all infections at an early stage, AIDS-Aid, in cooperation with the health department, offers rapid tests once a month, which are accepted relatively well. In addition to people from the risk groups, couples who stay together longer and want to do without condoms can also be examined more often as a precaution, said the German Aids Aid.

New drug to protect against HIV infection While HIV prevention is an efficient method of preventing disease through appropriate protection during sexual intercourse, numerous researchers and pharmaceutical manufacturers are already looking for a drug that can preventively prevent HIV infection when taken. They have now achieved further successes, as Robert Grant and colleagues from the University of California in San Francisco report in the current edition of the "New England Journal of Medicine". In a study with 2,499 healthy men from South America, South Africa, Thailand and the USA, who had regular intercourse with other men, the scientists could have shown that the preventive use of the drug "Truvada" reduced the number of HIV infections almost 44 percent has decreased. In the subjects who took the preparation on at least 90 percent of the days, the risk of infection was even reduced by 72.8 percent, the scientists continued. In contrast to the previously investigated medicinal products, the participants in the study period of 14 months had only relatively rarely suffered from side effects, according to the US researchers. The pharmaceutical manufacturers are already feeling lucrative business here, because a product that needs to be taken preventively in order to protect itself against HIV infection could really make a lot of money.

Criticism of new drug for AIDS prevention has long been known among experts for a long time that the risk of HIV infection can be reduced with the help of preventive drugs. But the procedure is not without controversy. For example, the AIDS researcher from Essen University Hospital, Dr. Stefan Esser that he finds it “ethically questionable” if the healthy people are treated with medication instead of the infected. The drug treatment of AIDS patients can also minimize the risk of infection for everyone else and at the same time help those affected. It makes more sense to give the infected people medication instead of the healthy ones. In this way, the lives of AIDS patients could be saved and at the same time the sexual partners are relatively well protected against an illness, emphasized the Essen-based AIDS researcher.

The drug treatment reduces the pathogens in the body of those infected with HIV to such an extent that the risk of infection for the partner during sexual intercourse can be reduced by 90 percent. In view of a reduction in the risk of infection of almost 73 percent, which resulted in the current study from the preventive use of "Truvada", 90 percent is a very convincing value. In individual cases, it may be justified that, for example, medical personnel who come into contact with the pathogen receive preventive medication to prevent HIV infection, but in general the drug treatment of those affected seems more appropriate. The experts agree that the use of a condom offers the best protection against infection to this day. (fp)

Also read:
70,000 people in Germany suffer from AIDS
Precursors of the AIDS virus tens of thousands of years old
AIDS: SI virus is considered a precursor to HIV
Why some do not get AIDS despite HIV
World AIDS Day: more solidarity required
AIDS: no fate with correct antibodies?

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