While the number of new HIV in the United States has fallen off dramatically since the mid-1980s, Florida has the highest number of new HIV diagnoses in the country. The Florida Department of Health estimates that approximately 130,000 individuals are currently living with HIV disease in Florida.

HIV weakens the body’s immune system, limiting its ability to protect itself from disease. As a result, approximately one-quarter of HIV-infected persons in the United States are also infected with Hepatitis C virus (HCV), a blood-borne virus transmitted through direct contact with the blood of an affected person.

A recent study published online in the New England Journal of Medicine offers hope to those who are co-infected with HIV and HCV. One of the study’s principal investigators is Moti Ramgopal, MD, infectious disease specialist, director of the Center for Clinical Research at Martin Health and co-founder of Midway Immunology and Research Center in Fort Pierce where he has devoted much of his time to the treatment of HIV/AIDS.

“We have had very limited options for the treatment of HCV in those with co-infections,” Ramgopal said. “This study introduces a new oral medication that directly acts against the virus.”

The study’s findings are significant as HCV is one of the most important causes of chronic liver disease in the U.S. and HCV infection progresses more rapidly to liver damage in HIV-infected persons. HCV infection may also impact the course and management of HIV infection; liver disease is the leading cause of death among HIV patients.

Bristol-Myers Squibb, the study’s sponsor, hand-picked the investigators to trial two newly developed drugs, daclatasvir and sofosbuvir.

“We now have a medication regimen that provides improved HCV treatment and enhances the quality of life for those who have HIV-HCV co-infection,” Ramgopal said. “Research is critical to advancing the quality of care we offer and we are all pleased and proud of this study’s outcome.”