In its 30 year history, few (if any) positive aspects of the HIV/AIDS epidemic have made the spotlight, but advances in treatment and a new study are aiming to turn that around and to demonstrate to HIV/AIDS patients that they can still have a high quality of life while undergoing treatment.
The AIDS Treatment for Life International Study (ATLIS) collected information about treatment awareness from more than 2,000 patients across 12 countries, the largest patient survey of its kind.
"We were able to, for the first time ... garner an understanding of what that patient goes through from a treatment perspective, but also from a personal perspective," says Lindsay Deefholts of Cohn & Wolfe, one of the companies involved in the research.
"We didn't want to just uncover the negatives associated with this disease. There are a whole lot of positives that we were able to learn about with these findings," Deefholts says. "It actually gave a lot of hope and it was something to celebrate ... there's a lot of good that's also happening."
One result of the findings is the first-ever set of treatment guidelines for HIV, which have yet to be released by the National Institutes of Health. Researchers from the International Association of Physicians in AIDS Care, or IAPAC, which sponsored the study, also cited new treatment options with fewer side effects, in an effort to strengthen communication between doctors and patients when it comes to adherence to medication and the long-term benefits patients can experience as a result.
The findings also revealed the need for more individualized treatment and greater focus on co-morbidities, which refer to the other health conditions that can be exacerbated by HIV or its treatments, such as heart disease, stroke or kidney failure.
"It's great that HIV clinicians are focusing on antiretroviral therapies and patients are doing so much better," Renslow Sherer, professor of medicine at the University of Chicago and member of the ATLIS team, told the Chicago Tribune when the study findings were presented last year. "But people are now dying from heart disease, liver disease, kidney disease and stroke ... We just want to make sure that both patients and doctors treating people with HIV don't just focus on the T-cells," he says.