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Many HIV-Infected Kids Could Use Cheaper Treatment Safely
Date:9/7/2010

By Alan Mozes
HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, Sept. 7 (HealthDay News) -- For HIV-infected children in the developing world, treatment choices have been limited by concerns over the possible development of resistance to drugs they received as infants during failed attempts to prevent their infection in the first place.

But a new U.S. National Institutes of Health-funded study suggests there may be a way to administer one particularly cheap and practical HIV drug -- nevirapine -- safely and effectively to many of these children.

The finding was detailed by study co-author Louise Kuhn, a professor of epidemiology at the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University in New York City, and Dr. Lynne Mofenson, chief of the pediatric, adolescent and maternal AIDS branch of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, during a recent teleconference.

The study itself will be published in the Sept. 8 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Mofenson noted that globally 430,000 infants become infected with HIV. About 90 percent of these children live in sub-Saharan Africa.

To tackle this immense problem, public health officials often turn to nevirapine. A single dose of the drug given at birth to the newborn of an HIV-infected mother can reduce the risk of HIV transmission by as much as 50 percent, Mofenson explained.

However, those infants who go on to become infected run the risk of developing a nevirapine-resistant strain of virus. And resistance testing, though available, is far too expensive to be considered a practical screening tool in the developing world.

So, about three years ago the World Health Organization recommended that HIV-infected children who had first been given nevirapine not be given the effective and cost-effective treatment again in favor of a costly protease inhibitor cocktail that is difficult to store a
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