People with HIV must start taking drugs to fight the virus which causes AIDS immediately after they’re diagnosed, a new international research finds.
Scientists who carried out the trial were very excited by the health benefits of immediate use of HIV medicine that they closed the study early so they could give out the drugs to all participants.
This discovery could change World Health Organization guidelines on the best method to treat people with HIV, experts explain. Currently, WHO is recommending that HIV patients not begin treatment before their immune system is starting to be affected.
“We now have clear-cut proof that it is of significantly greater health benefit to an HIV-infected person to start antiretroviral therapy sooner rather than later. “Moreover, early therapy conveys a double benefit, not only improving the health of individuals but at the same time, by lowering their viral load, reducing the risk they will transmit HIV to others. These findings have global implications for the treatment of HIV,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, mentioned in a statement.
The study begun back in 2011. Around 4,700 HIV-infected women and men took participated at 215 sites in 35 countries. Around half were randomly designated to start drug treatment right away, while the other half didn’t receive the drugs until their immune systems showed signs of problems.
As of March, scientists found 41 cases of severe health problems, like death or progression to AIDS, in some of those who started the treatment immediately, to 86 in those who started taking the medications later. Patients who were on the drugs earlier also progressed better regardless to where they lived and the wealth of their countries.
While Fauci explained the results have “global implications,” their impact will be less important in advanced nations where HIV-infected people are usually diagnosed early and start taking the medications immediately after that.
Even in the United States, where official guidelines advise that newly diagnosed patients start taking the medications right away, some patients who suffer of a less advanced disease opt not to take the drugs right away.
They have a variety of reasons for doing this, explained Dr. Tanya Ellman, an HIV specialist and instructor at Columbia University Medical Center in New York City. Ellman added the new report is supporting the existing federal recommendation and could lead to an expansion of WHO guidelines.
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