NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — As we count down to AIDS Walk New York on Sunday, the disease still does not have a cure. But treatment has dramatically changed the prognosis for many.
For many with AIDS and HIV, a combination of drugs has turned the disease into a treatable, chronic condition. Just as significant, CBS2’s Dr. Max Gomez says there are now medications that can actually prevent AIDS.
CONTINUING COVERAGE: AIDS Walk New York
On Thursday, Gomez reported on some of the medications that have transformed AIDS and HIV, the virus that leads to AIDS, from a perceived death sentence into, “Anyone who is diagnosed with HIV today, who has access to medical care, is likely to live as long and full a life as anyone who is not HIV positive,” AIDS activist Damon Jacobs said.
Jacobs is a licensed marriage and family therapist who has lived through and watched much of the AIDS pandemic. He told Gomez that AIDS is still very much with us and especially the rest of the world, but that there have been huge developments in prevention.
“It is a pill that one uses before they are sexually active or before they’re put at risk for contracting HIV that reduces the likelihood of becoming HIV positive by about 99%, according to the CDC,” Jacobs said.
“PrEP for pre-exposure prophylaxis is a medicine that can prevent HIV. PrEP is for people who are HIV negative and at risk of getting HIV. This includes people who have a partner with HIV, people who don’t always use condoms, or people who have been diagnosed with an STD in the past six months,” a CDC public service message says.
You may have seen the commercials for the two medications that are approved for PrEP. The key is that it’s for people who are HIV positive and are proactive for prevention and able to take their meds on a daily basis.
A different kind of prevention is called PEP, for post-exposure prophylaxis. It’s an emergency medication taken after possible unprotected exposure to HIV, but must be taken within 72 hours of exposure.
And, finally, the multi-drug cocktails that have turned HIV/AIDS into a chronic disease have another benefit.
“Someone who is living with HIV can have their viral load suppressed fairly quickly. They cannot sexually transmit HIV to another partner,” Jacobs said.
But if an HIV-positive person stops taking their medications, the virus will likely come roaring back. So while these drugs can be life-savers, they require access to affordable care and responsibility to take them consistently.