Living with HIV is hard enough in life. Not just for having the disease but also with the stigma attached to it. Before the discovery and recognition of AIDS, it was believed that this disease was a punishment from god towards the homosexual society. This belief was mostly attributed to the high percentage of the gay population that were infected. Protection was not used during intercourse since there was no fear of getting any disease that antibiotics couldn’t cure. Blood was donated without screening, there was also no rush to find a cure and treatment of patients was akin to leprosy. But then something happened which scared officials into actually caring. It started to affect the heterosexual society. Suddenly there was a desire to help.
The First Drug
The first approved drug was called Retrovir (azidothymidine). This was commonly known as the AZT drug. This was the first antiretrovial drug developed to fight an HIV infection. This AZT drug works by inhibiting the enzyme (reverse transcriptase) that HIV uses to synthesize DNA. By preventing HIV from forming DNA, you prevent it from replicating. It doesn’t mean you kill it, you just manage to slow it down. It was seen as a treatment to prolong life. It was also the first step for other HIV meds to be developed.
The most important development of discovering Retrovir was the prevention of HIV transfer from a pregnant mother to her child. HIV travels from the mother to the child during pregnancy. When HIV was unknown and the only concern of being sexually active was herpes, protection was an afterthought. Infection rates increased among pregnant women and their children. Imagine coming into the world with a foot in the grave and infected. Its not much of a chance in life.
There are side effects associated with using the AZT drug. The question is whether you really worry too much about side effects considering the infection you are trying to beat. the side effects include anemia, neutropenia (white blood cell death), liver damage, heart muscle deterioration and muscle weakness. Then add common side effects such as heartburn, upset stomach, headaches weight loss, mood changes and skin discoloration.
While performing clinical trials, it was determined that lowering doses of the AZT drug actually lessened the side effects. AZT is toxic on the body and today we know alot more about toxicity than in the past. Also add a mixture of vitamins to help white and red cell counts which further lessened the side effects. This was the first step in a path to combination therapy treatment.
What treatments do you use to combat HIV?