In a press release from May 12, the HIV Prevention Trials Network released the results of their study which claims that administering antiretroviral (ART) drugs immediately after diagnosing HIV can reduce transmission rates by 96%. This is as opposed to administering ART drugs following an observed reduction of white blood cell (CD4) count.
The study was called HPTN 052 and its results were examined by a Data and Safety Monitoring Board (DSMB) which concluded that these results be immediately relayed to physicians and patients of HIV. The study was initiated in 2005 and involved over 1700 participants across three continents.
The participants were split into two groups. The first were HIV positive patients who’s CD4 count was between 350-550 cells/cubic millimeter. These patients did not require HIV treatment. The second group had a CD4 count of below 250 cells/cubic millimeter or had AIDS and required immediate treatment with ART drugs. Both groups were given equal amounts of care and counseling.
When the results were obtained it was found that in the second group, there were 27 cases of transmission in contrast to 1 case in the first group. This indicates that if HIV diagnosed patients immediately begin treatment instead of waiting for CD4 levels to fall, the risk of transmission is monumentally reduced.
Though these results give a very positive outlook for people who suffer the burden of HIV, further research is still required to understand how this observation arises, and what can be done to fully eradicate HIV. This study was funded by the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) and the US National Institutes of Health (NIH).