Author(s): Friedland GH, Williams A
In recent years, advances in HIV therapeutics have changed the nature of HIV/AIDS disease, so that it has now assumed some of the characteristics of a 'chronic' disease. Several factors have, however, qualified these advances. Social, economic, and clinical variables have confounded universal therapeutic success. Access to the highly active antiretroviral therapy is limited among marginalized populations, such as the homeless, or absent in many nations that have poor resources. In addition, study populations are often not fully representative of those actually cared for in clinical practice, who may respond differently to the study medications. Moreover, physiologic differences between patients may alter drug plasma levels, resulting in varying efficacy levels in different patients. Finally, and crucial among determinants of effective therapy, is a patient's level of adherence to the antiretroviral regimen. The magnitude of 'error-prone' viral replication makes resistance to antiretroviral agents invariable. In the presence of partially suppressive therapy, viral replication will select for viral variants with resistance mutations. Therefore, potent and continuous suppressive therapy for the duration of viral replicative capability is necessary for therapy to be effective. Factors that have an impact on adherence include characteristics of the treatment regimen, of patients and clinicians, and of the clinical setting. Successful adherence to therapeutic regimens is the responsibility of clinicians as well as patients. Many patient- and clinician-focused strategies and interventions that can improve adherence exist. The simplification of current antiviral regimens, without the loss of potency, is essential to achieving the goal of complete adherence. Maximizing the long-term benefit of highly active antiretroviral therapy requires knowledge of the technical and biologic aspects of HIV therapeutics, but necessitates an understanding of the behavioral aspects of therapeutics as well.