June 3, 2009: Still no AIDS cure; prevention is key


To The Editor:
While HIV/AIDS is a less prominent issue in our local newspapers, we should not operate under the illusion that living with HIV or AIDS is less onerous than ever. Moreover, the epidemic is spreading in the United States faster than predicted. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate of 56,000 new infections for 2006 is much higher than the previous estimates of 40,000. True, there are now numerous medications available, but there is still no cure and every medication has side effects and limited efficacy. As the virus mutates easily, not adhering to a strict regimen of taking medication can be dangerous. People living longer with HIV/AIDS have aged faster, been prone to early onset of cardiac diseases, emphysema, diabetes, cancers, disfigurement from weird lipid metabolism, neuropathies, liver, spleen and kidney toxicities and depression, among other things. AIDS medications continue to be extraordinarily expensive. For those with co-pays, it drains resources; for those with government-assisted insurance (now 75 percent of those living with the disease), there remain limits on which medications can be prescribed and governments are cutting drug assistance programs as they face huge budget deficits. (California has just cut its AIDS Drug Assistance Program by over $55 million.) The shame, fear and hiding has not ceased, nor has the daily struggle been made easy even with the availability of the large number of medications (pills and injections) that most people need to take every day to sustain their lives.
The AIDS case rate in New York State is nearly double that of the nation. The message must be that every effort must be made to find better treatments and hopefully a cure.
All of us, including those of us living in rural upstate New York, must continue to prevent transmission by knowing and avoiding the risk factors. June 27 is National HIV Testing Day and a good time for those at risk to take advantage of the free anonymous HIV testing available in Delaware and Otsego counties.

Marc J. Osterweil,