Starting HIV Treatment Right Away Can Drastically Lower Probability of Passing It On
This, in turn, could prevent millions of infections around the world.
The major international study was funded by the National Institutes of Health. Its findings could encourage doctors and health care policymakers to administer medication sooner.
In a study of nearly 2000 couples with one infected partner, those who began taking oral antiretroviral drugs immediately upon diagnosis were 96 percent less likely to transmit the AIDS-causing virus to their uninfected partner than those who started therapy later.
The study began in 2005 and was expected to run 10 years through 2015, but the results were so clear that researchers stopped four years ahead of schedule.
Because HIV drugs are expensive—$12,000 or more a year—and can cause side effects like nausea and liver damage, patients often don’t start treatment until they’re far sicker.
“This breakthrough is a serious game changer and will drive the prevention revolution forward,” said Michel Sidibé, the executive director of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS, in a press release. “It makes HIV treatment a new priority prevention option.”