Friday, 18 July 2014

Still seeking a cure

Earlier this week we got the melancholy news that the HIV positive child from Mississippi who was thought 'functionally cured' of HIV because of agressive early treatment - has HIV in her again - two years after she had stopped her medications. 

So the number of people 'medically cured' of HIV goes down from two to one. 

The sole person world-wide that we have documented as being cured of HIV using medical treatment being 'the Berlin Patient' - an American man who was given a bone marrow transplant for an advanced leukemia (people living with HIV get other diseases too...) and who was able to stop medications because the donor had a known mutation which stops HIV from reproducing.

I was talking to a man day before yesterday.  38 years old.  Intelligent.  Kind.  A man who helps others as part of his calling.  A man who found out 10 days ago that he is HIV positive.  How did he get it?  We did not probe on this - but he did speak about being abused as a child. 

WHen I asked him what questions he had - he did not dwell on the issue of how he got the disease.  Maybe we will talk about that later.  The question he had was how long would he live.

My response was that I can't tell.  But that today that is good news rather than bad news.

Because of the medications - we now expect people on Anti-Retroviral Therapy to live past their national average lifespan.  Our ladies who are on ART have a body mass index signficantly higher than our national average (which is woefully thin).

What I told my new found friend was that if we find out that he needs to start the medications - that if he takes them regularly - he should be able to live a normal life-span.  This is wonderful news - the kind of stuff that we would only dream about 10 years ago.

God is answering our prayers - all around us are people who are able to live because of the pills.  And because they are taking them.

Sadly there are people who are not taking their meds.  People like Mr. and Mrs. Tamam whose family situation is so chaotic - and whose personal behaviour is so erratic that you want to just weep.   Despite countless times of counselling and a number of apparent steps forward, this family seems to be bent on self-destruction. 

And then there are others who are clinging to hopes of cures through other means.  Sheba talked yesterday to a couple who have tragically spent over 20,000 rupees on an 'ayurvedic' treatment from Kerala.  We are trying to get them to start free ART treatment - and the lady is saying that she doesn't have the money to take an auto-rickshaw here - but that her husband is being cured by this 90 day therapy. 

The man is thin and coughing.  Sheba told them that we would check for TB and if we find him to be suffering from TB, then we will have to start on both TB drugs and ART. 

The most notorious swindler - is a chap called T.J. Majeed - who the supreme court has banned from selling HIV medications (his website does not have anything about HIV right now - but plenty of hints that his 'medicines' will kill viruses...)  A man who it is said has built a house (and pretty big one at that) called 'Virus.'

And here we have sitting in our clinic a couple who have fallen for this man's lies.

It's just so sad that we are still fighting such unscrupulous touts.   And shows how far we still have to go - especially as people with HIV now have medications that world wide are cutting the death rates and allowing people to live.

People like my friend 'Eddie' who will be coming to meet me tomorrow.  A Bible school graduate (which he did after he found out he had HIV), Eddie is dropping in after his appointment at the government hospital to pick up this month's medication.

Five years ago Eddie was dying from TB of the heart.  We helped diagnose him and treat him and with prayers and meds he got better.   This handsome young man is the last person anyone would think is living with HIV - but he is alive thanks to the ART meds - and his prayers and willingness to stick to the meds religiously (literally!).

We are still seeking a cure - but till we get the gold standard - we have something really, really good that is helping so many of our dear friends with HIV!

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