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hope to learn everything from how women are getting infected to
which women are being given medications. Significantly, the protocol
will also offer the first solid information on how women are benefitting
from the remarkable new drugs called protease inhibitors. Shown
to reduce the virus in the bloodstream to undetectable levels, these
drugs have profound implications for long-term survival with AIDS.
of those on the three-drug protease "cocktail" have experienced
near-miraculous recoveries. But the drugs have not worked for everyone,
and they are not a cure. Aside from their often intolerable side
effects, they are expensive and tremendously complicated to take.
Some protease regimens require 20 pills a day -- some to be taken
with food, some without -- and can cost as much as $20,000 a year,
making them an option for only the best-insured patients. Moreover,
unless the drugs are taken properly, the virus can quickly become
resistant to them, setting the stage for reproduction of new mutant
strains of HIV.
the study, Wyatt and her colleagues also hope to cultivate a better
understanding of the social aspects of the disease: how women with
HIV negotiate dating or being in a committed relationship. How their
partners adjust. What women tell their children. Do they even reveal
that they're sick?
AIDS workers have learned that women with HIV are more motivated
to take care of their health if they can go to a facility that also
treats their children. But while the medical community makes progress
in improving care for women with HIV, the social stigma associated
with the disease is unmitigated. Women today are where gay men were
at the beginning of the epidemic 15 years ago. Isolated, in hiding,
had the baby," Brenda announces on my voicemail.
her back. She sounds sleepy and distant and happy. Like a new mom.