Thursday, April 5, 2007

Hospice: AIDS Drug Too Late Again

Years ago, before I became a certified hospice volunteer, I found myself in the unexpected position of giving ongoing assistance to two men with AIDS. I was a hospice volunteer then and didn’t know it. The first man died. The second man, who was diagnosed with AIDS a year later, had the great fortune of living with AIDS during the same time that protease inhibitor drugs revolutionized treatment of the disease. The multi-drug "cocktail" changed AIDS from being an automatic death sentence to a chronic, but manageable, disease. The number of AIDS-related deaths decreased. Unfortunately, the prevalence of AIDS continued to increase. Infected people were living longer. New cases continued to develop, with particularly high rates among African Americans.

I thought the new drugs would be successful in helping everyone who had AIDS. But a January 2, 2007 news article by James Ricci titled “AIDS drug offers hope, but too late for one man” in the “Los Angeles Times” reports otherwise. Warren Ratcliffe and Mark McClelland are two men among an estimated 40,000 Americans whose illness could not be controlled by modern drugs. They'd developed resistance to them. Their only hope was to stall the virus by receiving “salvage therapy” to stay alive until a new drug was discovered that could help them.

That amazing new drug, an integrase inhibitor, was finally discovered in 2006. While it came in time to save McClelland, it came too late for Ratcliffe, who died at age 59 of AIDS-related cancer. Once again, a man and many others, died before they could benefit from a new drug discovery. So far, McClelland seems to be responding well to the drug. Dr. Steven Deeks, a UC San Francisco salvage therapy authority, hopes that during 2007, other surviving salvage therapy patients will develop immune systems that can rebuild themselves.
Note: See comments section to view AIDS videos.

Frances Shani Parker, Author
"Becoming Dead Right: A Hospice Volunteer in Urban Nursing Homes”
Hospice and Nursing Homes Blog


  1. here are some videos that explore AIDS from a variety of perspectives

    Act Up Turns 20

    Prevention with Positives

    Curing AIDS

  2. Thanks, Peter. These were very informative.