News Stories for Authors: Cure for HIV?

What would you think of a miracle cure for HIV that was too expensive and too labor intensive to cure most of the people who have HIV?

Well, that may be exactly what has occurred for two patients who are seemingly testing negative for the disease after receiving a bone marrow transplant for lymphoma.

Now, if that’s not a medical thriller, I don’t know what is.

Here are some of the highlights of the article that discusses this “cure”. I put that in quotation marks because two patients with no evidence of disease (NED) does not a proven cure make. Much, much more research needs to be done.

1. Evidently, when people with HIV receive bone marrow transplants, they stop taking their HIV meds. In these two cases, the patients continued to take their HIV medication.

2. From #1, it is theorized that continuing to take their HIV medication kept the virus from taking hold once the new immune system was transplanted because the viral load was kept low.

3. Since the bone marrow transplant, both patients stayed on their HIV medication for a period of time but have now stopped taking their medication. One for seven weeks and the other for 15 weeks and the virus has not returned. This does not mean that it won’t at some point but this does sound very promising.

4. One patient was transplanted with cells that carried a mutation, CCR5, that evidently prevents infection with HIV by blocking it from infecting the immune system. This is an area of interest for research in gene therapy.

All good news, right?

Well . . . maybe. From the article . . .

“Many clinicians would agree, however, that the three possible treatment options described in the article– including that used in the two highlighted cases– are not practical in a treatment setting, or may present too many safety and tolerability risks for the vast majority of HIV- infected patients.”— emphasis mine. 

My thoughts: Bone marrow transplants are arduous procedures. They are timely and expensive. It’s hard to find donors as they have to be an HLA match. Hence, donor registries.

According to the CDC, nearly 1.2 million people are living with HIV in the US alone. World wide there are 33.4 million people.

Sadly, what it will come down to if this proves to be a cure is who can afford it or not. This is one thing I fear with more and more health systems being run by governments. It’s pencil pushers deciding who gets treatment or not. Who gets the cure or not.

What do you think? If this proves to be a cure, how does everyone get it? Should everyone get it despite the expense?

A true cure for HIV or just another plot for a medical thriller? Click to Tweet.

Puncture: Medically Accurate or Not?

This week my debut novel, Proof, releases!

To celebrate, anyone who leaves a comment on my blog during this weeks posts will be eligible to win a free copy! I’ll also be drawing from my followers/subscribers lists as well. So, plenty of places for you to win. Drawing cutoff will be Sunday, June 3rd. Winners announced Tuesday, June 5th. To claim, you must e-mail me with your info so definitely check the June 5th post. Must live in the USA.

Back to business…

When you author a medical blog on medical accuracy in fiction– people will start to flag you when they are outraged over a certain movie, book, experience (you get the picture.) I love getting these alerts because, of course, it helps me write blog posts for you.

My interest was piqued after I got several “Hey, have you seen the movie Puncture?” and lamentations over how inaccurate the film was.

Off to Netflix to reserve a copy. Over the last weekend, I watched the film.

Spoiler Alert!

Puncture is “based on the true story” of two lawyers, Mike Weiss and Paul Danziger, litigating in the 1990s to get the use of safety needles into hospitals on behalf of a nurse who was stuck with a contaminated needle, contracted HIV, and subsequently died. During discovery for the lawsuit, there seemed to be a concentrated effort to keep these types of needles out of the hospitals due to how expensive they are.

So far– nothing is too hard for me to believe. I first started nursing in 1993 and at that time, use of safety needles and needleless systems were not used at every hospital. One unit I interviewed for often took care of AIDS patients. When I asked if they used needleless systems– the answer was “no”.

I didn’t work there.

Now, in the US, I don’t know of anyone not using needleless systems. This is a good thing.

The one claim in the movie that seemed to be getting everyone’s ire up was the statement that the re-use of needles in Africa and Asia could have been more responsible for the transmission of the HIV virus amongst those populations than sexual transmission. In the movie, it was also claimed that children were paid money to dumpster dive in search of used needles to bring back to the hospital for use.

Hmmm–well, it might be true (maybe not the dumpster part.)

I started to do a little research of my own and within the last couple of years, a few studies have shown that the estimated 90% transmission rate of the HIV virus related to sexual transmission may not be that high— that perhaps the re-use of needles was more of a contributing factor.

Why would a government want to hide this truth? Well, for a practical reason as quoted in some of my reading. If people feared getting HIV and other viruses from re-used needles– they might not want to receive a regular immunization for say— tetanus. Lower immunization rates are problematic for everyone.

You can read my immunization series here:
http://jordynredwood.blogspot.com/2011/11/pediatric-controversies-immunizations.html
http://jordynredwood.blogspot.com/2011/11/pediatric-controversies-immunizations_30.html
http://jordynredwood.blogspot.com/2011/12/pediatric-controversies-immunizations.html

So–I’m going to give Puncture a pass for medical accuracy. I think their theory is plausible and backed up by some credible resources– which is more than I can say for a lot of other movies.

If you’re interested in reading some of the resources I found– here they are:

http://protectthepope.com/?p=1821: This post has lots of additional links.
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2002/12/01/MN334.DTL&ao=all
http://thebovine.wordpress.com/2011/04/25/aids-in-africa-more-from-medical-re-use-of-needles-than-sexual-transmission/

What are your thoughts?