What's up, what's down for 2004?
Fewer pills. New anti-HIV therapy increasingly includes recently introduced compounds which offer once- or twice-daily dosing, often with only one or two pills per drug. For many, therapy may now be two pills in the morning and one pill in the evening. Compare that with 30-40 pills a couple of years ago, taken around the clock.
Reduced side effects. The new drugs cause fewer side effects than before and improvement continues. Also, as medical research gradually discovers the physiological causes of side effects, treatments are being developed to help ameliorate the side effects from the older, but still useful, drugs.
Fewer new drugs introduced. In 2003, a record four new anti-HIV drugs were brought to market, making a total of 19. There are dozens of compounds being tested, but 2004 may not see any actually ready for consumers.
Increased HIV testing. Although there is little scientific evidence that it will assist measurably in reducing new HIV transmissions, the CDC recently announced that getting people tested for HIV is now the cornerstone of its prevention programming. This is in keeping with the Bush administration's conservative philosophy of avoiding frank discussion of risk behaviors -- sex and drugs -- and outreach to marginalized populations.
Reduced services and access to care. The federal and state Republican administrations continue to carve away funding for health care and social programs, even though the number of new HIV infections continues to climb at about 40,000 per year in the U.S.
This year, then, will likely offer some positives and some negatives for HIV-infected people and their families, and for the organizations which serve them. Nonetheless, ASA and others will continue to work hard to provide the Austin area with the quality care and prevention education which our community has come to expect.
Community Education Coordinator, AIDS Services of Austin