July 22, 2011

Early Therapy Stops the Spread of HIV

(Ivanhoe Newswire) -- A new study suggests that starting antiretroviral therapy earlier leads to better health outcomes and a lower risk of transmitting HIV.

According to the World Health Organization, about 33.3 million people were living with HIV in 2009. Antiretroviral therapy has led to huge reductions in death rates and health problems among those who are infected with the virus.

Researchers studied 1,763 couples in nine different countries. In each couple, one partner was HIV-1-positive, and the other was HIV-1-negative. The patients with HIV-1 were randomly assigned to receive antiretroviral therapy either immediately after a decline in their CD4 (white blood cell) count, which was known as "early therapy," or at the onset of HIV-1-related symptoms, which was known as "delayed therapy."

Results showed early therapy with antiretroviral drugs reduced rates of sexual transmission among the couples that were studied. The early therapy also reduced rates of clinical events among the patients infected with HIV. Researchers say these findings suggest that treating patients early may offer both a personal and public health advantage.

The authors conclude by writing, "In this trial, we found that early antiretroviral therapy had a clinical benefit for both HIV-1-infected persons and their uninfected sexual partners. These results support the use of antiretroviral treatment as part of a public health strategy to reduce the spread of HIV-1 infection."

SOURCE: The New England Journal of Medicine, July 18, 2011