New HIV treatment means fewer pills and side effects

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SARASOTA- Living with HIV means living on a schedule.

“Starts at 7:30 in the morning,” Debbie Sergi-Laws said. “My alarm goes off and wakes me up if I’m not already awake. I take about 12-15 pills at that moment, I drink a protein shake, because I need food in my stomach.”

Debbie Sergi-Laws has 4 more medication alarms set throughout the day.

“It’s about 30 pills a day total,” Sergi- Laws said. “Not all are anti-retrovirals for HIV, but they all somehow or another all inter-relate to me living with HIV.”
That could change, with the FDA approving Juluca, the first two-drug HIV regimen.

“As opposed to the typical regimen which are three medications,” Dr. Tanya Schreibman said. “It’s a combination of two in a single tablet.”
Medical Director of CAN Community Health Dr. Tanya Schreibman says it’s easier for patients to manage.

“It’s allowing for optimal control of their HIV,” Dr. Schreibman said. “But fewer medication, so less side-effects, less toxicity, both in the short-term and the long-term.”
Side-effects of HIV medication are often worse than the symptoms of the virus itself.

“Which is why it’s so hard for people to take their medication,” Dr. Schreibman said. “They actually feel better not on it. And that’s why the wave of the future is trying to find medications that are easier for people to take and to tolerate so they don’t feel sicker than they would without them.”

And for those living with HIV, like Debbie Sergi-Laws, it means more freedom.

“It would help free up my time,” Sergi-Laws said. “It would also help to not have such a schedule to live by. I would like to eat when I want to eat, not because I have to eat.”

This new drug regimen may not be the best treatment for everyone living with HIV and should be discussed with your own doctor.

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Samantha Sonner
Multimedia Journalist Samantha Sonner comes to the Suncoast from Las Cruces, New Mexico, where she worked as a reporter and host for KRWG TV/FM reporting on local politics, immigration, and border issues. Samantha grew up on Long Island, New York. She received her Bachelor of Science in Broadcast and Digital Journalism from Syracuse University. At Syracuse, she worked at WAER, the campus NPR station and interned at television stations in Central New York. Samantha is excited for the Florida Sunshine, and to be living so close to fantastic beaches. Feel free to follow her on Facebook and Twitter for story updates and news, or to send her story tips and ideas. You can also email her at samantha.sonner@snntv.com.