Recent study shows: early initiation of antiretroviral therapy improves individual health

April 4, 2014

Early initiation of antiretroviral therapy (ART) has a positive effect on the individual health of people living with HIV. This is confirmed by new study results, published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases.

Previously, scientific evidence has demonstrated that antiretroviral treatment not only reduces the risk of HIV transmission with 96%, but also of other health related symptoms like opportunistic infections and TB. The best time to initiate ART however was still unknown. Recent research compared the effects of early and delayed initiation of ART (a CD4 count of above 350 versus below 250).

People living with HIV in a monogamous HIV-discordant relationship in 9 countries in South-America, Africa and Asia were enrolled to the study. Study findings demonstrate that the number of CD4 cells remained stable in patients assigned to the early treatment group. Furthermore, early access to ART turned out to both delay AIDS and decrease opportunistic infections and TB.

Not having to wait to start ART allows people to stay healthier, to be more productive and it improves livelihoods of individuals, families and communities.

These benefits, combined with the striking reduction in HIV transmission previously reported, provides strong support for earlier initiation of antiretroviral treatment.

The innovative MaxART programme is about to start its demonstration project for early acces to treatment in Swaziland. The demonstration project follows the initial phase in the programme that strives for better health and zero new HIV infections in Swaziland. STOP AIDS NOW! is partner in the MaxART consortium.