Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV, AIDS) (cont.)

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Should patients with the flu- or mono-like illness of primary HIV infection be treated?

There are theoretical reasons why patients identified with HIV around the time they are first infected (primary, acute infection) may benefit from the immediate initiation of potent antiviral therapy. Preliminary evidence suggests that unique aspects of the body's immune response to the virus may be preserved by this strategy. It is thought that treatment during the primary infection may be an opportunity to help the body's natural defense system to work against HIV. Thus, patients may gain improved control of their infection while on therapy and perhaps even after therapy is stopped. At one time, the hope was that if therapy was started very early in the course of the infection HIV could be eradicated. Most evidence today however suggests that this is not the case, although research will certainly continue in the coming years in this area. Consequently, at least for now it is premature to think that early treatment may result in a cure, although other benefits may still exist, including avoiding the substantial damage to the immune system that occurs during the first weeks of infection. In addition, these individuals have very high levels of virus in their blood and genital secretions, and early treatment might reduce their risk of transmitting to others. There also is evidence that those who develop such symptoms during the early days of infection may be at greater risk of disease progression than those who become infected with minimal or no symptoms. Due to the absence of definitive data, guidelines vary, but many suggest that patients with primary infection be referred to clinical studies, if possible, and consider initiating therapy earlier rather than later.

What about treatment for HIV during pregnancy?

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One of the greatest advances in the management of HIV infection has been in pregnant women. Prior to antiviral therapy, the risk of HIV transmission from an infected mother to her newborn was approximately 25%-35%. The first major advance in this area came with studies giving ZDV after the first trimester of pregnancy, then intravenously during the delivery process, and then after delivery to the newborn for six weeks. This treatment showed a reduction in the risk of transmission to less than 10%. Although less data are available with more potent drug combinations, clinical experience suggests that the risk of transmission may be reduced to less than 5%. Current recommendations are to advise HIV-infected pregnant women regarding both the unknown side effects of antiviral therapy on the fetus and the promising clinical experience with potent therapy in preventing transmission. In the final analysis, however, pregnant women with HIV should be treated essentially the same as nonpregnant women with HIV. Exceptions would be during the first trimester, where therapy remains controversial, and avoiding certain drugs that may cause greater concern for fetal toxicity, such as EFV.

All HIV-infected pregnant women should be managed by an obstetrician with experience in dealing with HIV-infected women. Maximal obstetric precautions to minimize transmission of the HIV virus, such as avoiding scalp monitors and minimizing labor after rupture of the uterine membranes, should be observed. In addition, the potential use of an elective Caesarean section (C-section) should be discussed, particularly in those women without good viral control of their HIV infection where the risk of transmission may be increased. Breastfeeding should be avoided if alternative nutrition for the infant is available since HIV transmission can occur by this route. Updated guidelines for managing HIV-infected women are updated on a regular basis and can be found at http://www.aidsinfo.nih.gov.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 4/3/2013

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Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV, AIDS) - Symptoms Question: What symptoms have you experienced with your HIV infection?
HIV - Diagnosis Question: What tests did you have to diagnose HIV? What was your reaction?
HIV - How it's Spread Question: If known, please share how you contracted HIV.
HIV - Tests Question: What tests are used to monitor your HIV?
HIV - Management Question: Please share the ways in which you manage your HIV.
HIV - Pregnancy Treatment Question: Please describe your experience with HIV treatment during pregnancy. Does your child have HIV?
HIV - Prevention Question: In what ways do you actively prevent HIV transmission?

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