New study shows early treatment slows HIV
Posted Friday, January 18 2013 at 07:07
Fight. Researchers at the Global HIV/Aids Prevention Trials Network say the fast spread of HIV virus can be checked by treating people irrespective
A new study suggests that giving HIV/Aids drugs to people as soon as they test positive will help in preserving the immune system as well as keep the virus in check.
The study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, found that early treatment lowers the amount of virus in the blood for up to 60 weeks after such treatment is stopped, which potentially reduces the risk of further transmission.
The findings reinforce results of an earlier study, which suggested early treatment of HIV with anti-retroviral therapy cut transmission by 96 per cent within couples where one partner is HIV-positive and the other is not infected.
Researchers at the Global HIV/Aids Prevention Trials Network said the trend of the fast spread of HIV virus could be averted only if all individuals, who test HIV positive, are started on treatment immediately without considering their CD4 count.
The new study, dubbed SPARTAC (Short Pulse Anti-Retroviral Therapy at HIV Seroconversion), a randomised controlled trial, took place over five years and involved 366 adults – mainly heterosexual women and gay men – from Australia, Brazil, Ireland, Italy, South Africa, Spain, Uganda and the UK.
While the news of early treatment may sound like a breakthrough in many other countries, Uganda may take long to adopt this new strategy in fighting HIV due to funding problems.
The Aids Control Programme Manager at the Ministry of Health, Dr Alex Ario, said the available funds are too little to put everyone who tests HIV positive on treatment.
Uganda has more than 1.2 million people living with HIV, but only a quarter of those can be enrolled on treatment.
“Providing ARVs to people living with HIV who have HIV-negative partners, pregnant women and high risk populations, regardless of their immune status, would increase the number of people eligible for treatment in Uganda from the current estimated 577,000 people with advanced stage of the virus who needs treatment to 1.2 million which may not be possible now,” Dr Ario said.
The researchers, who undertook the study, said this approach would work effectively with regular testing.