Pharmaceutical Solutions To AIDS Are Not Enough

by Jonathan Barnett

A recent phone conversation with a friend is helping me to continue to refine what I want to focus on as an AIDS dissident activist. In a passionate outburst that revealed a new side of his character, he blurted out his dismay that our society in general and our gay community in particular seems to be willing to settle for a solution to AIDS that relies exclusively on drugs from the pharmaceutical industry.

It is no secret that despite a massive marketing campaign promoting improved tolerance for and reduced adverse reactions from new drugs and dosages, sometimes researchers buck the marketing department with the alarming reality that today’s AIDS drugs still cause serious health problems, including death.

For example, one such study was recently presented at the 50th Interscience Conference on Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy (ICAAC).

Before even getting to the study, observe that the name of the conference combines the terms: “antimicrobial agents” and “chemotherapy”. AIDS drug promoters bristle whenever someone compares ARVs (anti-retrovirals) to chemotherapy, yet apparently this particular conference has no difficulty making the same association.

Back to the study report that caught my eye, “Bone Loss Evident in Nearly Half of HIV-Positive Patients on Antiretroviral Therapy”, by Alice Goodman of Medscape Medical News. Kudos to the headline writer for making it explicitly clear that the study participants were on ARVs. Too often the headings of reports like this suggest findings are specific to those with an HIV-positive diagnosis alone, glossing over the fact that most study participants are taking the drug cocktails.

Interestingly, Goodman also refers to antiretroviral therapy as an “HIV specific factor… significantly related to the development of osteopenia and osteoporosis.”

“Use of protease inhibitors and tenofovir were significantly associated with bone loss in our study. Osteoporosis is a major problem in this population, and the study suggests that HIV-infected patients with risk factors should have bone mineral density [BMD] monitoring,” said Anna Bonjoch, MD, from Lluita Contra La SIDA Foundation at Germans Trias i Pujol, University Hospital, in Barcelona, Spain.

While Goodman’s report is about a study on bone loss, she also observes that researchers are not unaware of the contradictions in the recent push by the pharmaceutical-backed AIDS industry—including so-called community based AIDS organizations—to put more people on ARVs earlier than ever, regardless of their actual health status or physical symptoms.

At the opening press conference of ICAAC, Laurent Kaiser, MD, from the University Hospital of Geneva in Switzerland, told the media that new guidelines call for earlier treatment of HIV, and this means that patients will be treated for even longer than they have been previously, increasing the risk for adverse effects. “One of the most important issues in HIV infection is how to treat osteoporosis and cardiovascular disease — 2 major side effects of antiretroviral treatment. We don’t have any answers yet,” he stated. (emphasis added)

We AIDS dissidents are often chided for focusing on the harm caused by Highly Active Antiretroviral Therapy (HAART). A common response is that the benefits derived from these drugs outweigh the harm. That may be the case for those people with severe conditions, such as individuals on their death beds hoping for a “Lazarus” response.  Research designed to evaluate the evidence against long term use of toxic drugs by otherwise healthy people has not been—and will not be—so well funded.

I guess we are not supposed to read reports like this one that all but make the case that long term use of current pharmaceutical AIDS treatments have simply replaced old problems like PCP pneumonia and KS with new ones like systemic organ failure, cancers and death from cumulative toxicities. In the process, we have increased the cost of treatment to astronomical levels, not only for the initial condition, but for treating the inevitable subsequent adverse reactions as well.

Read the rest at Resistance Is Fruitful.

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