Advancements in treatment for HIV is continuously developing. New research shows that giving HIV drugs to a patient as soon as they are diagnosed could slow down the damage to their immune system and delay the need for long-term treatment. In turn, this could reduce the spread of disease.
Generally speaking, patients don’t usually receive antiretroviral therapy until their immune system has been significantly weakened by the infection, but a team from Imperial College London found giving treatment as soon as possible had a long-term protective effect lowering the amount of virus in the blood for up to 60 weeks after it was stopped.
Lead researcher Dr. Sarah Fidler commented on the study saying, “These results are promising and suggest that a year-long course of treatment for people recently infected with HIV may have some benefit on the immune system, as well as helping control the virus. The treatment also reduces the amount of virus in the body for some time after the patient has stopped taking the medication. This could be very important for helping reduce the risk of passing on the virus to a sexual partner.”
Chief study investigator, Prof. Jonathan Weber, said the study reinforced the importance of regular testing: “Early testing and diagnosis are incredibly important. When a person first contracts HIV, they are at their most infectious, but they are also often unaware that they have contracted the disease and hence are more likely to spread the infection. The sooner they can be diagnosed, the better our chances of limiting the spread of the virus and the sooner they can be offered appropriate guidance and counseling.” (Read the full details for the study here.)