In recognition of the first AIDS drug – AZT, Equitas Health looks at the the current state of HIV, and hopes for the future.
The early years of the AIDS epidemic were an incredibly challenging time as researchers and doctors struggled to understand the virus, how it was being spread, how to detect it, and how to intervene. “AZT was a critical first step – it offered hope to patients for the first time, it spurred HIV drug development, and the world began to see AIDS as a treatable disease,” said Dr. Herchline, Infectious Disease Physician at Equitas Health.
In 1996, the introduction of the “AIDS cocktail”, a triple combination therapy with AZT, another drug of its class, and a protese inhibitor, gave patients and doctors new hope. “Now you take one pill a day with three drugs in it; it stops the virus from multiplying, your body heals, and you have a normal life expectancy,” said Dr. Herchline.
Despite remarkable advances in drug therapy and testing services, 1 in 5 people are HIV-positive but don’t know it. If current rates continue, 1 in 6 gay and bisexual men will be diagnosed with HIV in their lifetime, with men of color disproportionately impacted. “Thanks to our integrated patient-centered care model, 92% of our HIV positive patients are engaged in an anti-retroviral drug regimen, compared to 37% nationally. Our viral suppression rate, meaning those individuals who are HIV-positive and living with such low levels of HIV in their body they are not able to transmit the disease, is 87% compared to 30% nationally,” said Bill Hardy, President & CEO of Equitas Health.
While there has been tremendous progress, an HIV-positive diagnosis remains a challenging diagnosis for many. “Today, treatment still requires indefinite, sometimes costly, daily medication and potential side effects. In the near future, there may be alternative treatments available and someday, hopefully, a cure. In the meantime, Equitas Health remains committed to providing a welcoming healthcare home for those at-risk or infected with HIV/AIDS,” said Dr. Herchline.