Earlier this month, AIDS researchers revealed the exciting news that as a direct result of taking HIV drugs, those infected greatly decreased the chances of passing the virus to their partners. The results were so drastic, the study was stopped earlier than scheduled. Additionally, the Washington Post reported that those who did not have HIV, but whose partners did, “were almost completely protected if the partner took the combination of HIV-suppression drugs.”
This study was conducted in nine countries in all – including America and Africa. Anthony S. Fauci is the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and is responsible for this $78 million experiment. He and other experts agreed that the concluding data was much more than what they expected.
Does this mean that the basic steps for prevention can be ignored such as condoms, behavior changes and clean hypodermic needles? No. Common sense dictates that precautions like these must still be used and followed. It’s just that now, one more tool for preventive care can be added – antiretroviral therapy (ART).
This therapy not only stops the AIDS virus from spreading, but it also is dispelled from the body very quickly. Subsequently, researchers have hard evidence gathered from such areas as British Columbia, Brazil, Thailand and the U.S. after studying heterosexual couples (for whatever reason, gay couples/men did not volunteer) that new infection rates have plummeted after HIV testing and early treatment was implemented.
But how early should an infected person start ART? If drug therapy is prescribed before the individual starts showing symptoms, it can result in damage to his or her immune system. On the other hand, delaying treatment unnecessarily increases the chances of mortality. Obviously, a balance needs to be struck. This new finding should not be used to coerce HIV-positive patients to start taking drug therapy earlier than they should. At present, the World Health Organization’s standard is to begin drug therapy when CD4 cell count dips below 350.