Anti-HIV Drugs Not ‘Miracle Cures,’ Los Angeles Times Says
"The therapeutic power of the new AIDS drug combinations has been rightly celebrated, but the misconception that they are miracle cures is having a dangerous, unintended effect: Both infected and uninfected men are engaging in more high-risk sexual behavior," a Los Angeles Times editorial states. Citing a report revealing that HIV infections among gay men in San Francisco have more than doubled since 1997, the editorial attributes part of the increase to "overconfidence in the healing power of new AIDS drugs" and recommends that drug companies "consider the moral implications of ads depicting happy, handsome, athletic people living easily with AIDS and HIV." Public service announcements should "make it clear" that new anti-HIV drugs "can at best hold the illness at bay." The editorial also suggests that TV networks lift the ban on condom advertising, saying that now with V-chips and show content ratings, "it seems senseless to prohibit condom ads on late-night shows in which characters discuss sex explicitly and extensively."
Public health officials also need to better direct their efforts. The CDC's HIV prevention campaigns are not based on the number of new HIV cases but rather on the number of new AIDS cases, and as the syndrome may not develop until years after HIV infection, the campaigns "are often aimed at the wrong people." Contending that public health officials "could keep better tabs" on HIV if physicians were required to report new HIV cases, as they are with TB, syphilis and gonorrhea, the editorial criticizes Gov. Gray Davis (D) for vetoing a bill that would have mandated HIV reporting using unique identifier codes. The editorial states that Davis "ought to welcome a new version of [Assembly member Carole Migden's (D-San Francisco)] bill, or at least the more modest measure proposed by Thomas Coates, director of the University of California's Center for AIDS Prevention Studies, to require reporting only from prenatal clinics, substance abuse services and clinics for sexually transmitted diseases, the places where an increase turns up first." The editorial concludes, "Better monitoring, public education and renewed personal responsibility will be key to preventing HIV from again spiraling out of control" (Los Angeles Times, 1/29).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.