AIDS has been a death sentence for a great many people ever since the ‘80s. One of the many problems faced by people infected with HIV, besides the health risks, was the stigma that came with it. Luckily for people suffering from the disease today, some of the stigma is gone, leaving place for open discussions. Because of this, AIDS has become mainstream again, with people finally able to talk about their problems. And this has come at just the right time, as HIV is gaining immunity to common medicine.
The most commonly used drug worldwide in the treatment and prevention of HIV, Tenofovir is also used for treating hepatitis B. This is because it is the cheapest and most effective version of the base substance, and it also comes with the smallest number of side effects.
Aside from having the disadvantage of being more expensive, other medicines with the same active substance come with a slew of side effects. These will most often make the person wish they’d just go off the medication, so Tenofovir is pretty much everyone’s best bet.
Or at least it used to be. Recently, more and more cases of resistance to the medicine have popped up, although there are just two ways of getting the resistance, both very easy to avoid – you either don’t follow the instructions, allowing the virus to mutate and gain resistance, or you have unprotected sex with someone who already has the resistant strain of the virus.
An international team of researchers looked at a sample group of 1,926 participants from 36 countries. All were suffering from a strand of HIV resistant to the medicine. The team managed to note down several factors that might or might not be involved in the virus gaining resistance.
CD4 cells are a type of cell that is related to someone’s immune system. The study revealed that people with a lower number of the cells, and implicitly with a lower immune system, had a 50% higher chance of developing immunity to Tenofovir.
The presence of other medications in the subject’s system also turned out to provide a higher chance of developing immunity. Such medicines include efavirenz, nevirapine, and lamivudine (its counterpart, emtricitabine, offers a lower chance of developing immunity).
Since 50% of HIV instances in sub Saharan Africa and 20% in Europe are now resistant to Tenofovir, the best drug used to treat it, the medical world is concerned that we might soon see a pandemic similar in scale to that in the ‘80s if they don’t find a way to solve it.
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