DermaVir, a novel treatment for HIV/AIDS, offers a new option which complements and improves present drug therapies. The vaccine, applied topically to the skin, has demonstrated efficacy in boosting immune responses and controlling virus replication in chronically infected monkeys. This treatment possibly offers a new, non-invasive option for HIV-infected patients. “The immune system demonstrated an unexpected capacity for recovery after DermaVir vaccinations in these monkeys, some of which had already progressed to AIDS before starting treatment,” states lead researcher, Julianna Lisziewicz, Ph.D. Though the immune control is not permanent, data shows that antiviral activity of immune responses induced by DermaVir are significantly longer than that of existing antiviral drugs. It is suggested that DermaVir would only need to be re-administered periodically, about 8 times a year, rather than daily.
Current antiretroviral therapies used to treat HIV combine several medications and are sometimes referred to as “cocktails.” Together, these drugs work to prevent the virus from multiplying. DermaVir is different from these treatments in that it induces HIV-specific immune reconstitution rather than targeting the virus, and is applied to the skin, rather than orally or through injection. Combined with antiretroviral drugs, DermaVir has shown to be more effective than when used alone, and does not have overlapping resistance or toxic characteristics that would otherwise compromise its effectiveness. Additionally, DermaVir side effects are minimal (skin irritation); thus patients might be able to avoid the excessive toxicities of anti-HIV cocktails.
According to the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS, there are currently about 39.4 million people worldwide who are living with HIV/AIDS. Of that number, 4.9 million were newly infected with HIV just this year. Globally, just under half of all people living with HIV are female. The numbers are steadily increasing for women and girls particularly in Eastern Europe, Asia andLatin America.