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July 1, 1998

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Treating Anemia Reduces Risk of Death For People With HIV

Leading AIDS Experts Discuss Improving Treatment of HIV-Related Anemia

New data presented at the 12th World AIDS Conference in Geneva show that untreated anemia alone can significantly increase the risk of death in people with HIV/AIDS.

"Anemia frequently is viewed as affecting the patient's quality of life, but our research found it also is linked to early death," said Richard Moore, M.D., associate professor of medicine and director of the program in pharmacoepidemiology and pharmacoeconomics at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. "Patients and physicians alike need to recognize the symptoms of anemia early and treat it."

Anemia, marked by a depleted number of red blood cells that carry oxygen to the body's tissues, is a major cause of debilitating fatigue in people with HIV. The condition is often considered an inevitable complication of living with HIV and affects up to 95% of people over the course of infection.

Anemia, traditionally has been treated with blood transfusions when the red blood cell protein hemoglobin drops to severely low levels -- below 8.5 grams per deciliter. Research shows, however, that people with hemoglobin levels as high as 12g/dl (typically considered to be the "normal" range) can benefit from the red-cell-boosting drug erythropoietin, given when anemia is related to therapy with antiretroviral drugs like AZT.

"The symptoms of anemia can be so severe that individuals can become bedridden and unable to perform even basic daily activities," states Dr. Moore. "Because people with HIV are living longer, this research can positively impact the lives of people living with the disease."


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