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Experts Claim HIV Patients Made Non-Infectious 394

Misanthrope writes to tell us that Swiss scientists are claiming that with proper treatment HIV patients can be made non-infectious. "The statement's headline statement says that 'after review of the medical literature and extensive discussion,' the Swiss Federal Commission for HIV / AIDS resolves that, 'An HIV-infected person on antiretroviral therapy with completely suppressed viraemia ("effective ART") is not sexually infectious, i.e. cannot transmit HIV through sexual contact.'"
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Experts Claim HIV Patients Made Non-Infectious

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  • by KublaiKhan ( 522918 ) on Monday February 04, 2008 @07:15PM (#22299646) Homepage Journal
    It's worth noting that this finding is only valid if there are no other STIs present--so if you've got the clap -and- HIV, you'll still be more likely to transmit it.

    Wasn't there an article a short while ago about how treating concurrent STIs also tended to decrease the rate of AIDs infection in an area? Perhaps this is related?
  • Re:Encouraging news (Score:4, Interesting)

    by nonsequitor ( 893813 ) on Monday February 04, 2008 @07:15PM (#22299658)
    It is my understanding anti-retroviral treatment is very expensive. For this to have any effect on the spread of HIV, every infected person in the third world needs treatment.

    I wonder how many months in Iraq it would cost to do something like that.
  • Re:AIDS free world (Score:3, Interesting)

    by snl2587 ( 1177409 ) on Monday February 04, 2008 @07:17PM (#22299708)

    Drug companies aside, there's no way this would be used anytime soon in 3rd world countries, so the problem will simply continue to grow there.

    What this needs is widespread proof and then some major government backing. Then, maybe.

  • Re:Encouraging news (Score:2, Interesting)

    by KublaiKhan ( 522918 ) on Monday February 04, 2008 @07:19PM (#22299730) Homepage Journal
    Thus my comment about the drug companies.

    Though IIRC, there was a recent article about a couple of patents being overturned for some AIDS drug or another; this would make (presumably lower-cost) generics available.

    My personal opinion is that these drugs (of all kinds) would likely be a lot less expensive if the companies that made them did not advertise all over the place--because, frankly, they're all only available with prescriptions anyway; why not trust the doctors to prescribe what's best for the patient, rather than what's in this month's issue of People?
  • Re:Encouraging news (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 04, 2008 @07:23PM (#22299790)
    "-poor people who don't know how to use contraception and the like--will be able to be treated."

    So you think it's likely that these people you describe, the ones who don't know how to use a condom or reliably take birth control pills, will be able to take their antiretrovirals, usually several times daily, and not appreciably miss doses to keep their viral load down for at least SIX MONTHS (yes - i read the article) is the more likely outcome?

    This is an intersting finding, but not what you think it is.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 04, 2008 @07:34PM (#22299928)
    You know, for guys in there late 40s, and have good access to healthcare they can expect a good quality of life for almost (if not exactly) as long as their non infected peers. That's not to say it doesn't suck, but HAART treatment is pretty good.
  • Small pox? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by SpeedyDX ( 1014595 ) <speedyphoenix@ g m a i> on Monday February 04, 2008 @07:34PM (#22299936)
    Just like drug companies had no interest in eliminating small pox? There are plenty of diseases to go around, and more of them turn up all the time.

    Admittedly, I'm too young to appreciate the politics that went on when small pox was "eradicated", so it would be nice if anyone can point out what's so different about the small pox issue and the AIDS issue.
  • Re:Wow (Score:5, Interesting)

    by VGR ( 467274 ) on Monday February 04, 2008 @07:36PM (#22299972)

    They covered their bases. This is one of the most informative and honest articles I've seen in a long time. They make a point of saying, more than once, that they're not positive a treated person is not infectious, but their certainty is equal to the certainty with which the scientific community asserted in 1986 that kissing cannot spread HIV (an assertion that continues to hold up to this day).

    Interestingly, they are not recommending the treatment for widespread use, because many people have trouble rigorously adhering to a treatment schedule, and even a little slip in the treatment could result in the creation of a resistant strain of HIV. I'd hate to be the doctor who has to pass that judgement: "Before I treat you, how do I know you won't skip an occasional treatment, thereby creating a scourge of humankind that's even harder to treat than the HIV we have now?"

  • Re:Encouraging news (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Tsiangkun ( 746511 ) on Monday February 04, 2008 @07:44PM (#22300074) Homepage
    Those were my first thoughts, make this available as a way to protect the community.

    If we can do bullshit like keep two ounces of mouthwash off a plane, while letting one ounce on, then we can get effective disease prevention to our population.

    Then I thought more, since I live in America where reality based communities don't alway align with the faith based government.

    My government hates sex. My government hates gays. My government thinks AIDS is a gay disease. AIDS is a sexually transmitted disease, and my government is not going to subsidize someones sex life.

    My government will do nothing but continue to say abstinence is the only way to remain disease free.

    Captcha = unfair
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 04, 2008 @07:49PM (#22300122)
    Probably not, barring some kind of major mutation. 1. It's hard to transmit, requiring sexual or blood contact. A significant portion, maybe even a majority, of the American population for example is in monogamous relationships and doesn't do drugs. 2. Its slow to spread. Before you get AIDS, you get HIV, and sometimes HIV never really develops into AIDS, other times it takes decades. In either case the specimen has ample time to reproduce. Even if HIV mutates to overcome both of those things, in the long term it would kill off huge segments of the species where it can easily take hold, it is extremely likely some part of the species will be able to resist it. Now would that be you or me? Different question...
  • Re:Your best bet... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by gad_zuki! ( 70830 ) on Monday February 04, 2008 @08:10PM (#22300358)
    >You want the average human to stop doing what evolution has spent 300 million years programming them to do?

    Really? Evolution has been progrmaming people to kill their mates through disease? Whoa, I've missed a lot in sex ed!

    I love how only the most base animal desires get propped out by evolution. I love how people just never say "Hey evolution has instilled logic and compassion into humans." Or "Evolution has instilled moral action" Or "Evolution has instilled guilt and conscious thought." Instead its always fuck and kill, and if you think thats all evolution can do then youre sorely mistaken.

    The real question is the ease of being able to control one's sexual desires vs the the control compassion and empathy have on us. Considering your comment could be (and has) been used to justify everything from rape to office sexual harassment, its interesting how society hasnt given up on some basic moral structures. Evolution again! Tricky aint it?
  • by jd ( 1658 ) <> on Monday February 04, 2008 @09:00PM (#22301028) Homepage Journal
    HIV mutates fast and confusingly. De-activated HIV, for the purpose of creating a vaccine, can - and has - reactivated itself. HIV is not always immediately detectable - many methods use detection of antibodies, so those with a damaged immune system may carry the virus and be considered negative with such tests. This may have happened with a group of women in Africa who appeared to be immune to the virus (they remained negative, despite repeated exposure to the virus) but then some of them started dying from the full-blown form suddenly. None of the usual intermediate stages. My guess is that they still test negative, though, using the test they've been using so far.

    So, even if they are 100% absolutely right for the samples they have, at the time the experiment was conducted, that confidence must fall as you increase the range of HIV viruses and the range of time they have to mutate.

    You must also consider that we're on some Nth generation of anti-virals because AIDS has mutated to develop resistance to all of the others. The second that happens with the current generation is the second the risk goes from near-zero to infinity, and nobody knows for sure when that moment will be. Hence the use of all kinds of toxic substances and anti-virals mixed together, so that immunity from one won't help, so minimizing the risk of mutant strains surviving. But you know that they will, sooner or later, and that when they do, they will spread. It might be tomorrow, but I'm guessing it's actually not too likely this side of 2020.

    Of course, if everyone considers it safe, and takes no precautions, I imagine the probability of such a mutation surviving and spreading will go up. As such, even if it is "safe" for the moment, it can't be safe forever and when it does develop resistance, it may take years - or decades - for the resistant strain to even get detected.

  • Re:Encouraging news (Score:5, Interesting)

    by king-manic ( 409855 ) on Monday February 04, 2008 @11:19PM (#22302220)

    I've seen this comment before on /. as well as similar comments about the infant mortality rate being higher in the US than any other country (which means the US healthcare system is teh suck). When these figures are quoted, are you people including the people who live in the ghet-to in large US cities? People who don't see a doctor on a regular basis and use the hospital E.R. when they have a backache? Are you also including all of the children under 18 who are accidentally shot in drive-by shootings? If so, yes, the US healthcare system looks pretty bad. We have a lot of people who don't survive infancy or don't live to see age 21. But that's not due to our healthcare system. It's due to crappy inner-city living conditions and too many gang-bangers who have no respect for other people's lives.

    Our healthcare system in the US works quite well if you have a job and insurance (that's one hell of an incentive to get out of bed in the morning and drag your ass to work!). I have personally witnessed "no expense spared" treatments which saved the lives of friends or their children. I work in healthcare and I get to see firsthand the technology the doctors have at their disposal to diagnose and treat health issues.
    Newsflash: Canada has slums too! In fact little towns called reserves are every bit as bad as any ghetto in the US. The best country to compare the US to is Canada. The reason our slums aren't as large and widespread is partially due to universal health care. Medical expenses are a leading cause of bankruptcy which is a major cause for poverty. Without this sword hanging above your family it's a much more peaceful and healthy place. Ethnically and culturally Canada resembles the US. If you did an analysis the key difference is single payer health care.

    And no I haven't watched Micheal Moores propaganda piece, however Canada is an example of how even bureaucratic government wrangling does not obliterate the benefit of universal health care. Of course We lack the sheer incompetences that is the current US admin. Perhaps if it was instituted while enough of the Bush cronies lead the various government agencies, it'd fail as spectacularly as FEMA did during Katrina.

    The US problem is they believe free market fixes everything. However this ideology is flawed as very few things exist in an ideal free market. The US health care system isn't a truly free market. Canada's system is probably closer to an ideal free market then the US system. We have a single payer, pay as you go system. Right now it's crunching under a worse case scenario but that will fade soon. All tax payers pay a set amount, and most services are private. From hospital supply companies, drug companies, the MRI scanning company, to the GP. All private businesses to negotiated with a central body for payment. It gives the people a better deal and actually reduces bureaucracy vs the US system. Where there are dozens of insurance companies all doing essentially the same jobs all working off the same actuary tables, in Canada we just have a central body to regulate our finances for health. The goal of the organization is singular "to make people better" while the US system has mixed goals of "produce most profit" and "to make people better". The lack of a profit margin at every level also helps. Canada health does not aim to make 60% profit off your treatment before factoring the profit of all private companies involved. This alone would negate any and all efficiencies the US systems may have. State of the art treatments are invented and used here as well. Likely similar to the ratio of our populations.
  • by NIckGorton ( 974753 ) on Monday February 04, 2008 @11:28PM (#22302320)
    For every one antibiotic rx I write for an illness that probably doesn't need it (generally because I am a wimp) I have to convince another ten people who are certain that they need antibiotics... that they don't.

    Generally the reason most physicians prescribe inappropriately is because asshats like Mr "I have not had a doctor do, or say anything to me that I did not already know since I was about 10" know better that they absolutely do need antibiotics (when they obviously don't). It takes thirty seconds to write the prescription and sometimes thirty minutes to escape the asshat.

    I actually had a complaint letter written to the CEO of the hospital where I worked a few years back from a parent who brought their child into the ER with what was obviously a viral syndrome. Their letter literally said I brought my child to the ER to get a prescription for antibiotics, not to be told that he didn't need antibiotics. And I get several complaints yearly from irate people who didn't like my answer that they didn't need antibiotics. I've never gotten a complaint when I prescribed them.

    So you can't have it both ways. If you want a doctor who has real clinical acumen, you can't also have him be a prescription vending machine.
  • Re:AIDS free world (Score:3, Interesting)

    by tsotha ( 720379 ) on Monday February 04, 2008 @11:42PM (#22302452)
    Yeah. I live in the San Francisco area. One of the unanticipated consequences of the AIDS "cocktail" has been a surge in unprotected sex among gay men. From an economists point of view, it's probably a rational decision, but actually eradicating the disease without a vaccine is pretty much a pipe dream.
  • Re:Encouraging news (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Virtual_Raider ( 52165 ) on Tuesday February 05, 2008 @01:14AM (#22303134)

    I have a whole lot more respect for a good auto mechanic or other problem solvers than your average doctor. Auto mechanic isn't done with your car until it runs right. Networking guy isn't done until your computer has a connection. Doctor can keep running tests forever.

    There is a fundamental difference between the two activities: ANY technology-related problem can be solved because the whole system is human-designed. It's been understood from the beginning and the goals and functions of every single element are known because it was made to be so. You can read the documentation about it and you will know whithout a doubt how it's supposed to work so you can find out why it doesn't.

    We currently know a great deal about the way a human body does, but it's complexity is vastly superior to that of any known machine, and it's full of parts we don't know how they work, why they work, or even what are they supposed to do. Difficulty of ruling out failures in this environment is orders of magnitude higher. And I am not even counting in infections by external entities such as virus, bacteria, fungi and the like.

... though his invention worked superbly -- his theory was a crock of sewage from beginning to end. -- Vernor Vinge, "The Peace War"