New York , July 20 (IANS) Anti-HIV medications have the potential to suppress the viral load of people living with HIV and provide durable protection against heterosexual transmission, a study says.
The findings showed that a 93 per cent reduction of HIV transmission occurred when the HIV-infected person started antiretroviral therapy or ART at a higher CD4 cell count — a marker of good immune system health.
“The study confirms the urgent need to treat people with HIV infection as soon as the infection is diagnosed to protect their health and for public health,” said lead author Myron S. Cohen from University of North Carolina in the US.
The results have helped to galvanise a worldwide commitment to a universal “treatment as prevention” strategy for combating the HIV/AIDS epidemic, with ART offered to all HIV-infected people, regardless of CD4 cell count, said the paper published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
For the study, which began in 2005, the team enrolled 1,763 HIV-serodiscordant couples — where one person was living with HIV and the other was not – at 13 sites in nine countries including India (Botswana, Brazil, Kenya, Malawi, South Africa, Thailand, the US and Zimbabwe).
Ninety-seven per cent of the couples were heterosexual. HIV-infected participants were assigned at random to start ART at the beginning of the study when their immune system was relatively healthy (called the “early” arm), or later in the study when they had immune system decline (called the “delayed” arm).