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What the papers Didn't say about AZT


This article, from the and published in September 1993, explores the use of AZT in treating .

What The Papers Didn't Say About

In this article we're going to try to respond to the media stories which have given some quite misleading impressions about AZT - the main drug used against HIV itself in people who are positive or have AIDS. Firstly some words about words: AZT, zidovudine and Retrovir are all the same thing. AZT is an abbreviation of the chemical name for the drug, zidovudine is a sort of generic term and Retrovir is the trade name used by the manufacturers of the drug, Wellcome.

Now to the main business - you could be forgiven, if you read certain newspapers, for believing that we now know that AZT is no use at all. This is not true. The trial which has just reported its early results (called Concorde because it was a French/British/Irish collaboration) was set up only to find out if there was any benefit in giving AZT to HIV positive people who didn't yet have any symptoms.
No-one who took part in the Concorde trial had AIDS or symptoms which suggested that they might develop AIDS soon. We already know that AZT works on people with AIDS (or near AIDS) by increasing the number of important immune system cells in the body. These cells are known as CD4 or sometimes T4 cells. The assumption is that the more functional (i.e. effective) CD4 cells you have, the healthier your immune system.

AZT will continue to be given to people with AIDS or showing early symptoms. What we now know, as a result of Concorde, is that it looks as if there's no real benefit to be gained from taking AZT before developing symptoms. SO, WHAT YOU REALLY NEED TO KNOW IS THIS: it appears that AZT by itself does not do a lot for HIV+ people without symptoms.

But once you do have symptoms, then AZT certainly does have some effect.
It could be that AZT will be useful for people without symptoms if it is used with other drugs - but we'll only know this after a great deal more research. And don't forget, great progress has been made in sorting out the best ways to use other drugs to treat many of the other infections that people get as a result of having HIV.

The moral of this story is a familiar one - don't believe everything you read in the papers (and especially on the subject of AIDS).
For further information about AZT if you are HIV positive, please talk to the medical staff at your clinic. If you want general information about AZT, call the AIDS Life Line on 021-235 any day of the week before

Contributed by: AIDSlifeline newsletter, 16

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