A Life-Saving Breakthrough for People With Hepatitis C and HIV
New Treatments for Hepatitis C Are a Game-Changer
In the past, the complications involved in treating both HIV and hepatitis C (along with the amplified damage happening in patients who had both diseases) made HCV the leading cause of death among patients with HIV/AIDS. As of 2011, however, new medicines for hepatitis C began revolutionizing treatment of that condition. In fact, enough time has passed that we can now say a cure is available for almost 100 percent of those infected with the virus.
An extremely important fact about new hepatitis C medicines is that in some cases (for example with faldaprevir), this cure extends to those who are co-infected. After 20 years in the field, it is very satisfying and fulfilling for me to be able to report this.
The new HCV drugs are pills that selectively target hep C virus. They slow reproduction, effectively killing hep C at the source. Two of the new medications include Sovaldi (sofosbuvir), and Olysio (simeprevir), both approved by the FDA in 2013.
The old interferon injections used against hepatitis C were a painful form of treatment. Interferon is the defensive chemical your body produces to ward off the flu virus. It is this chemical that causes the achy, terrible flu-like symptoms that occur when a person is sick. Because of the new medications, this kind of reaction is now nonexistent. In fact, due to the selective nature of direct acting antiviral drugs, DAAs, the side effects are very rarely more than a rash, headache, or slight nausea. This selectivity also allows the new drugs to do their job without interfering with other medications, including those used for treating HIV.
For Those With Hepatitis C and HIV, a New Lease on Life
If you are co-infected with hepatitis C and HIV, make sure you learn all you can about the new treatments for hepatitis C. They could save your life, because HCV complications are the No. 1 killer of people living with HIV. I have seen the results firsthand, in my own patients.
With four to six weeks of treatment (not 6 to 12 months, as before, with interferon), patients have no more HCV. What’s more, their treatment is smoother, and we no longer have to deal with complications that used to arise when simultaneously treating other conditions. My patients are happier, too. They’re happier with their quality of life, happier not having to deal with feeling like they have the flu three times a week, and happier knowing they can be cured of this deadly disease so they can turn their focus to living long-term with HIV.
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