University receives Elton John AIDS Foundation donation

Elton John by Ernst Vikne

The University of Liverpool has been awarded funding by the Elton John AIDS Foundation to increase awareness of the problem of drug interactions in HIV positive patients as they face ageing-related conditions and illnesses. 

HIV – Human Immunodeficiency Virus – is a retrovirus that infects cells of the immune system, destroying or impairing their function. As the infection progresses, the immune system becomes weaker and the person becomes more susceptible to other infections. The most advanced stage of HIV infection is Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS). 

Anti-HIV or antiretroviral (ARV) drugs dramatically slow down the process of cell damage.  Patients receiving combinations of antiretrovirals – so called Highly Active Antiretroviral Therapy (HAART) – can now expect to have a near-normal life expectancy. However, these drugs can sometimes interact with each other and with any other drugs that the patient may be taking at the same time.

The Elton John AIDS Foundation has supported the University to develop its HIV drug interactions website ( so that the web content is both user friendly and relevant to patient needs in different parts of the world. A low-technology version of the website will be designed for low bandwidth meaning that people in areas without fast internet connections, such as the developing world and remote locations, can access the website quickly and easily. This version will also include the key drugs used in developing countries.

Sir Elton John said: “Over the past three years we have made enormous progress in scaling up ARV treatment around the world.  We need to be sure that treatment can be managed well. To do that, the world’s healthcare professionals need to know as much as possible about the drugs they prescribe. This project will help them maintain safe treatment for thousands of people living with HIV around the world.”

Visit the Elton John AIDS Foundation website

The HIV drug interactions website provides a comprehensive online guide to the interactions between antiretroviral drugs and between antiretrovirals and other drugs.  When drugs are taken in combination they may interact: sometimes the HIV drugs may be made ineffective or may give unexpected adverse effects and the same can be true for a co-prescribed drug.

Professor David Back, from the Department of Molecular and Clinical Pharmacology, said: “We are delighted to receive this award which will enable us to provide HIV patients and healthcare professionals in the UK and overseas with access to information about HIV drug interactions that is relevant, reliable and up-to-date and can be accessed via a free, user-friendly and open service. “

There are currently 25 different antiretrovirals available to treat HIV. Antiretroviral treatment reduces both the mortality and morbidity of HIV infection.  The HIV drug interactions website provides drug interaction charts, an FAQ section and information on the latest research in HIV drug developments.  More recently, a facility to download the information to pocket PC devices was added which enables doctors and health professionals on the move to access the latest information without access to an internet connection.  An ‘App’ for iPhone is currently in development.

Photograph by Ernst Vikne

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