Back to contents

In this issue

Gus Cairns
Published: 01 June 2010

There’s probably no dafter saying than “What you don’t know can’t hurt you”. Not one you’d expect us to agree with, given that NAM’s whole raison d’être is to arm people with the information they need to make the best health decisions.

Not that we always do make the best decisions for our health, of course. Liz Highleyman’s piece (To your health) reminds us that drinking more than about a pint of beer or a large glass of wine a day is likely to do your health more harm than good. People don’t always pay attention to messages like that because, well, having a life is as important as living. But at least if you know it, you can balance your body’s needs against your social need for a pub night.

Unfairly, women have less tolerance to alcohol than men, and those who like more than the odd bevvy may be storing up liver trouble for the future. We don’t know if that’s especially the case for women with HIV. Indeed, as Sharon Walmsley says in A gap in the facts, there’s an awful lot we don’t know about HIV-positive women’s health in general, because for far too long researchers have been treating women as if they were an alien species.

That was understandable - if regrettable - when women formed a small minority of HIV-positive people. But now, when even in a country like the UK nearly 40% of people with HIV are female, there’s really no excuse for researchers and drug companies not to include women in significant number in clinical trials.

Another thing we don’t know enough about (and something you don’t want if you like a drink) is hepatitis C; specifically, how it’s really being transmitted in the gay men becoming infected (Staying free of hepatitis C). There’s an urgent need to find out more because until then, we don’t know what our advice to gay men should be. Is it about the sex you have – or the HIV you have?

This is quite political, because there’s a risk of assuming hepatitis C is the result of ‘bad behaviour’ and stigmatising the men who catch it, when it may be having HIV itself that makes people so much more susceptible. That mistake was made once before in the early 1980s when AIDS was blamed on the behaviour rather than a virus. Let’s not do it again.

There’s still an awful lot we don’t know about HIV. That’s why the START trial is so important, as Simon Collins says in START - and why the time is now?

We need to find out if everyone should be on HIV drugs from the word go or if that’s going to do more harm than good in people with high CD4 counts. It’s odd that some HIV organisations and clinicians are acting as if we know this already - we don’t. START is also important because if ‘treat everyone’ turns out to be a bad idea, it would stymie prevention campaigns that rely on reducing viral load.

Without that knowledge we might do more harm than good, whatever decision we make. So, as PhD students always end up saying: “more research is needed”.

This content was checked for accuracy at the time it was written. It may have been superseded by more recent developments. NAM recommends checking whether this is the most current information when making decisions that may affect your health.
Community Consensus Statement on Access to HIV Treatment and its Use for Prevention

Together, we can make it happen

We can end HIV soon if people have equal access to HIV drugs as treatment and as PrEP, and have free choice over whether to take them.

Launched today, the Community Consensus Statement is a basic set of principles aimed at making sure that happens.

The Community Consensus Statement is a joint initiative of AVAC, EATG, MSMGF, GNP+, HIV i-Base, the International HIV/AIDS Alliance, ITPC and NAM/aidsmap
close

This content was checked for accuracy at the time it was written. It may have been superseded by more recent developments. NAM recommends checking whether this is the most current information when making decisions that may affect your health.

NAM’s information is intended to support, rather than replace, consultation with a healthcare professional. Talk to your doctor or another member of your healthcare team for advice tailored to your situation.