March 4, 2016
This week, the FDA approved Odefsey, a new combination drug containing tenofovir alafenamide (TAF), an improved version of tenofovir. We also read about the Charlie Sheen effect on HIV prevention. And a study estimates the number of HIV-related deaths in South Africa between 1997 and 2010. Finally, we ask six key questions to advance HIV research. To beat HIV, you have to follow the science!
On Mar. 1, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved emtricitabine/rilpivirine/tenofovir alafenamide (Odefsey) for the treatment of HIV in adults and adolescents.
This is the second combination pill containing TAF to be approved for treatment, with the first being evitegravir/cobicistat/emtricitabine/TAF (Genvoya). TAF has shown better bone and kidney safety compared with tenofovir disoproxil fumarate (TDF, Viread).
Therefore, Odefsey is an improved version of emtricitabine/rilpivirine/TDF (Complera). The new pill is approved for treatment-naive patients with viral loads below 100,000 copies/mL, as well as for patients on other regimens who have maintained an undetectable viral load for at least six months.
Following actor Charlie Sheen's public HIV disclosure on Nov. 17, 2015, there were record numbers of news reports on HIV in the U.S., as well as Google searches about HIV and HIV prevention, according to a study published in JAMA Internal Medicine.
On the day of Sheen's disclosure, there was a 265% increase in news reports covering HIV, 97% of which mentioned Sheen, with 6,500 stories highlighted on Google News alone.
Google searches on HIV increased by 417% on the day of Sheen's disclosure, with more specific searches on HIV symptoms and HIV testing spiking up by 540% and 214%, respectively.
"While no one should be forced to reveal their HIV status and all diagnoses are tragic, Sheen's disclosure may benefit public health by potentially helping many learn more about HIV and HIV prevention, said lead study author John W. Ayers, Ph.D., according to the study press release.
A new study from South Africa estimates that 2.8 million people died from HIV-related causes between 1997 and 2010. The estimate of deaths is important for health care and policy planning, budgeting and calibrating models, according to the researchers.
The number of HIV-related deaths peaked to more than 283,000 per year in 2006, or around 770 deaths per day. Starting in 2007, the annual number of deaths started decreasing, reaching about 207,000 per year in 2010. Although the numbers were lower than other estimates, the researchers found these results to be consistent with the timing of expanded antiretroviral therapy rollout in South Africa starting in 2004, as well as increased prevention of mother-to-child transmission starting in 2003.
"However, at more than 560 deaths/day, AIDS was still the leading single cause of death in South Africa," the authors noted.
In this note, Kristin Nicole Harper, Ph.D., re-raises six key questions to ask in HIV research, that were originally posed by Jay Levy, M.D., in a paper last year. These questions remain critical in developing effective strategies to beat the virus. They are:
Warren Tong is the senior science editor for TheBody.com and TheBodyPRO.com.
Follow Warren on Twitter: @WarrenAtTheBody.
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