HIV prevention: Drugs even more effective than thought

Using HIV treatment drugs to reduce the risk of spreading the AIDS virus may be even more effective than thought, according to new analysis from a landmark trial presented here on Monday.

The four-day meeting in Rome under the International AIDS Society was given the first full peer-reviewed data from a trial whose preliminary results were unveiled to media in May to astonishment and acclaim.

These figures found that giving an HIV-infected patient early treatment reduced the risk of transmitting the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) by sex to a non-infected partner by 96 percent.

That performance puts early therapy on a par with a condom, a prevention often shunned by people at risk.

Monday's analysis suggested this already-stellar protectiveness could even be a shade higher.

"(It) may be even stronger than initially reported," the investigators said in a press release.

Named HPTN 052, for HIV Prevention Trials Network 052, the project entailed enrolling 1,763 "serodiscordant" couples, meaning couples where one partner was infected by HIV while the other was HIV-free.

It took place at 13 sites in Botswana, Brazil, India, Kenya, Malawi, South Africa, Thailand, the United States and Zimbabwe.

In one group, the HIV-infected partners began taking HIV drugs immediately.

In the other, the infected partner delayed taking the therapy until his or her count of immune cells or state of health met guidelines for initiating treatment under the UN's World Health Organisation (WHO).

Initial data found that 39 people became infected in the course of the study.

A triple test to determine the source of this infection found that 27 cases occurred from infected partners in the delayed treatment group, and one in the immediate treatment group.

The 11 other cases were caused by sex with non-partners or were undetermined at that point.

The latest data found 28 cases among the delayed treatment group - one more than before.

It also discovered that the sole case in the immediate treatment group was a person who probably became infected close to the time when the couple enrolled in the study and before HIV drugs could suppress the virus in body fluids.

"The protection is going to be greater than 96 percent," Myron Cohen, the trial's lead investigator and professor of microbiology and immunology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, told AFP.

In a further benefit, early use of drugs was also associated with a 41-percent reduction in sickness or death related to HIV.

When these figures are put together, it means that the benefits of immediately starting HIV treatment are even stronger than thought, said the study.

The WHO hailed "the exciting results" of the study and said they would be factored into guidelines for using antiretrovirals and testing and counselling couples.

When investigators began enrolling volunteers in April 2005, the UN's health agency recommended initiating the drugs for anyone with advanced HIV disease or with a count of CD4 immune cells that were less than 200 per microlitre of blood.

For the delayed treatment group, the study used a benchmark of 250, and the WHO itself revised its guidelines last year to 350 CD4 cells per microlitre of blood.

The Rome conference gathers 5,500 specialists, ranging from virologists to pharmacologists and disease trackers.

It is staged once every two years by the International AIDS Society (IAS), which also organises the International AIDS Conference, a bigger event that touches on the pandemic's many social dimensions.

The study was also published concurrently by the New England Journal of Medicine.

ri/mm

 

PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Arts and Entertainment
Under the skin: Sarah Kane in May 1998
theatreThe story behind a new season of Sarah Kane plays
Arts and Entertainment
Preening: Johnny Depp in 'Mortdecai'
filmMortdecai becomes actor's fifth consecutive box office bomb
Sport
Bradford City's reward for their memorable win over Chelsea is a trip to face either Sunderland or Fulham (Getty)
football
News
Lars Andersen took up archery in his mid thirties
video
Voices
Focus E15 Mothers led a protest to highlight the lack of affordable housing in London
voicesLondon’s housing crisis amounts to an abuse of human rights, says Grace Dent
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Warehouse Operations & Logistics Manager

    £38000 - £42000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the UK's best performing...

    Recruitment Genius: GeoDatabase Specialist - Hazard Modelling

    £35000 - £43000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our award-winning client is one...

    Recruitment Genius: Compressed Air Pipework Installation Engineer

    £15000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leading provider of Atlas ...

    Recruitment Genius: Operations Coordinator - Pallet Network

    £18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Opportunity to join established...

    Day In a Page

    Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

    Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

    One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
    The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

    The enemy within

    People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
    Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

    Autumn/winter menswear 2015

    The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
    'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

    'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

    Army general planning to come out
    Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

    What the six wise men told Tony Blair

    Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
    25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

    25 years of The Independent on Sunday

    The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
    Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

    Smash hit go under the hammer

    It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
    Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

    The geeks who rocked the world

    A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
    Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

    Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

    Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
    America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

    America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

    These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
    A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

    A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

    A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
    Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

    Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

    A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
    Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

    Growing mussels

    Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project