Truvada, Choice and Control

Published: March 20, 2015

The University Times
Dan Scott
Original Article:  bit.ly/1BE8iN0

About fifty years ago, the first oral contraceptive products emerged onto the market, used by women to manage hormonal imbalances as well as allowing them to have an informed choice on family planning. Although the use of contraceptives was something of taboo in Ireland since their conception due to a heavy influence from religious orders, the “pill” is now a mainstream drug which is prescribed to and taken by a multitude of women. Recently the “morning-after pill” has become more accessible. It is now available from a pharmacy, for use within 72 hours of unprotected sex or where a contraceptive measure has failed, following a clinical consultation for €30.

While in this timeframe heterosexual couples were offered control when safer sex regimens to prevent pregnancy, a huge crisis eclipsed this revolution. HIV became prominent in the 1980s. It was initially linked with gay men, only to be further dispersed epidemiologically to anyone who engaged in unprotected sex or the sharing of needles. This posed not only a high risk to those who contracted the disease, with the subsequent weakening of the immune system leading to a significantly decreased life expectancy, but also a huge problem to couples in which one person was HIV positive. This can pose further risks down the line such as having a child as well as breastfeeding, where the virus can pass through if the mother is HIV positive.

The hallmark of HIV suppression is in prevention, such as advocating the use of condoms with large public health campaigns which have, to an extent, been successful.

The hallmark of HIV suppression is in prevention, such as advocating the use of condoms with large public health campaigns which have, to an extent, been successful. Those diagnosed with HIV are offered a cocktail of antiretrovirals, which block the steps at different points needed to encrypt the virus’ genetic code into the human DNA sequence, and thus lower the risk of suppressing the host’s immune system which is so vital to function. This, in turn, prevents opportunistic infections which would not generally infect a healthy person, but may prove to be fatal in the case of HIV-positive patients. In order to simplify the daily multi-drug regimen all-in-one multitarget pills have been marketed, as well as patient education measures to prevent further progression or spread of the disease. In the field of IVF “sperm washing”, which isolates sperm from seminal fluid where the virus would be contained, has been shown to allow for conception without the mother contracting HIV in the vast majority of cases, and egg freezing with screening for HIV can help reduce transmission greatly.

Full text of article available at link below:  bit.ly/1BE8iN0

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