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The HIV virus became feebler

Updated on December 15, 2014
World AIDS Day Ribbon
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A feebler HIV virus

According to a published study made in Africa the AFP states that the virulence of the HIV virus, responsible for AIDS seems to have diminished over the years, because of its fast evolution and greater access for infected populations to antiretroviral drugs.

The study authors coordinated by Rebecca Payne, professor at the Oxford University in Great Britain, have monitored two groups of people infected by HIV from South Africa and Botswana, two countries severely infected with HIV.

The study

In Botswana where the HIV epidemic has started earlier and where the prevalence of seropositive adults is higher than in South Africa, the study authors found that the virus has adapted developing o series of genetic mutation in response to the body’s immune response triggered by the antiretroviral treatment.

The virus adaptation, developed to fight the antiretroviral drugs, has diminished its capacity to replicate and has lowered its virulence compared to the group of people infected in South Africa where antiretroviral treatment has been administrated later on. The findings were published by the study authors in “Proceedings of the National Academy of Science (PNAS).

Study conclusions

“The increased (and precocious) antiretroviral treatment could contribute to a decline of HIV virulence”, was the conclusion of the study authors.

“If the observed process in the study is confirmed, then it should accelerate by a large margin the success of actual programs regarding prevention and treatment of HIV infections, whose objective is to eradicate the disease.”

Preventive treatment

Ever since 2012, the sanitary authorities worldwide, including the USA Health Minister have recommended the preventive administration of antiretroviral medication for people in the high risk of infection category. The World Health Organization has adopted these recommendations in July of 2014.

More clinical studies have showed that suppression of viral load for infected persons, considerably reduces the risk of transmitting the HIV virus to their sexual partners. Since the first antiretroviral drug against HIV was authorized by the FDA, 27 years ago, these treatments got more and more effective and their side effects have dropped considerably. Also the increased population access to antiretroviral medication have determined a drastic drop in the numbers of infections and death caused by AIDS.

In July 2012, the FDA approved the launch of a new antiretroviral medication called Truvada, made by Gilead Sciences which is the first preventive treatment against AIDS for people in the high risk category.

According to ONUSIDA, worldwide there were 35 million infected persons with HIV at the end of 2013. That year, 2.1 million where infected and 1.5 million died.

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