Tika Receives Life-saving HIV Virus Treatment

Chimp Haven is thankful for individuals like you who believe in our mission of providing lifetime care for retired biomedical, entertainment and pet chimpanzees. Through your support, chimpanzees such as Tika, have received life-saving medicine.

Tika was born in 1978 in a laboratory. In 1985, she was inoculated with the blood of an HIV infected chimpanzee in efforts to continue research of the virus. She spent twenty years in HIV and AIDS studies. When Tika arrived at Chimp Haven in 2006, she was a timid chimpanzee. She did not have much experience socializing with other chimpanzees and spent most of her time outdoors.

“It appeared that Tika was fascinated with being outside,” Animal Care Director Kathleen Taylor said. “Soon after arriving at Chimp Haven, staff began training her to apply sunscreen to her cheeks to prevent sun burns. No one could have known that something as simple as enjoying the sun’s rays would mean so much to her.”

Over half of the retired biomedical research chimpanzees arrived at Chimp Haven with the HIV virus and/or Hepatitis. However, Tika’s case was different because she was one of only a few chimpanzees in biomedical research history who exhibited AIDS symptoms, which were observed soon after her arrival at Chimp Haven.

Dedicated to providing quality medical care to each chimpanzee residing at Chimp Haven, Attending Veterinarian Dr. Raven Jackson sprang into action researching a therapy that would offer Tika a better quality of life. Through her research, Dr. Jackson realized there were no documented clinical cases of chimpanzees receiving treatment for the HIV virus.

“Although chimpanzees were used in HIV and AIDS research, locating a documented clinical case that included the treatment of a chimpanzee with the virus proved to be difficult,” Dr. Jackson said. “However, because we were committed to upholding our promise of providing the necessary care for our chimpanzees, it was important to think outside of the traditional veterinary box, find a treatment that would work, and begin a daily regimen immediately.”

After consulting fellow practitioners, Dr. Jackson decided to begin an antiretroviral treatment, normally performed with human AIDS patients. Although she would be stepping into an unknown realm of veterinary medicine, she confidently felt this was the best approach in prolonging Tika’s life. A generous donation of two separate antiretroviral medications—one from from Gilead Sciences, Inc. and one from Merck Laboratories—enabled Chimp Haven’s veterinary staff to begin administration of the therapy in October 2012. Dr. Jackson hoped the aggressive treatment would prevent the virus from multiplying thus reducing Tika’s viral load, and providing her immune system an opportunity to recover.

Today, Tika is thriving in her social group. She enjoys the naturalistic environment and freedoms of the sanctuary. Tika has been on the antiretroviral therapy for two months. Recent testing indicated a significant decrease in the amount of the virus in her body to a nearly undetectable level.

“This is exciting and promising news not only because this type of treatment has never been documented in chimpanzees, but more importantly, because it exemplifies how nontraditional measures can be taken to save lives,” Dr. Jackson said. “Tika, like all of the chimpanzees residing at Chimp Haven, deserves the opportunity to live comfortably and as healthy as possible.”

We are thankful for friends like you who support us as we carry on this important work. Please consider helping Tika and other chimpanzees at Chimp Haven by donating $25 to provide a month’s worth of lifesaving medicine for one chimpanzee, $35 to feed a chimpanzee for one full week, or $200 to provide vital heart medicine for a chimpanzee for one year.

To donate to Chimp Haven, Click Here. For updates on Tika and the other chimpanzees at Chimp Haven, follow us on Facebook and Twitter.