After ten years of HAART, we have our lives back. Now we’d like our faces and bodies back, too
It’s hard to believe that ten years have passed since the first protease inhibitor (Invirase) was approved. It was a revolution in HIV treatment that led to combination therapy becoming the standard of care. And as the decade progressed, AIDS deaths in the U.S. dropped from more than 51,000 in 1995 to about 16,000 in 2002.
For some, however, the reality of serious side effects has loomed just as large as the benefits. Prime among them is lipodystrophy, or “lipo,” characterized by sunken faces, swollen necks and bellies and the threat of heart disease from high cholesterol. Many of us are concerned about our outward appearance and hunting for better meds—specifically, information on how to adjust, or “refine,” our combos to move out of lipo’s reach while also avoiding drug resistance.
Happily, research is shedding more and more light on which drugs lead to lipo’s odd body reshaping and which drugs might reverse it, making treatment tweaks an ever more exact science. At this point, most people with HIV have a range of options, with room to factor in lipo risks along with issues like convenience and tolerability. “Several studies from this past year have contributed to our knowledge,” says treatment activist Nelson Vergel, an author, public speaker and Internet host who coaches people with HIV on ways to avoid, handle and reverse lipo’s ravages. “The studies have laid out more options for switching meds.”
Another step forward perhaps since the last time you checked: Better results from the cosmetic procedures some HIVers count on—such as facial fillers and liposuction—whether on their own or to supplement treatment switches.
This special lipo issue of POZ Focus is the first in a series on the evolution of HIV therapy—from survival to refinement. In lipo’s case, progress has been anything but smooth. Our hope is that the latest info will help you to navigate life with HIV with a little more confidence.
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