Treating HIV earlier cuts risk of death drastically

Toronto, April 15 (Inditop) Initiating anti-HIV treatment early on could cut the risk of death by up to 94 percent, according to a study.

The study said treatment should start as early as possible, which has always seemed to apply to most diseases except HIV-AIDS, which is only treated once a certain number of immune or white blood cells called CD4+ cells have disappeared.

The results of the study, which involved the team of Marina Klein of the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre, run contrary to this consensus.

The findings, based on an analysis of data from 17,517 patients between 1996 and 2005, show that the risk of death in seropositive patients decreases by 69-94 percent if they start treatment earlier than officially recommended.

Seropositivity is development of neutralising antibodies in individuals who have been exposed to the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).

More precisely, the risk of death decreases by 94 percent for patients who begin anti-HIV treatment when their CD4+ cell counts are above 500 cells per mm compared with those who start with a count below 500.

Patients who begin treatment with a CD4+ cell count between 350 and 500 cells per mm see their risk of death reduced by 69 percent compared with those who begin at a lower count of 350.

“The official guidelines recommend starting anti-HIV treatment when the patient’s CD4+ cell count is less than 350 cells per mm. This recommendation was formulated from data based on older medications that produced more side effects than current treatments,” explained Klein.

“Current therapies cause fewer side-effects, are better tolerated and more effective so we can safely start treating patients earlier.”

This study is the first of its scope to measure the risk of death based on the progress of infection at the start of treatment. The information was drawn from a number of databases in North America, including one managed by Klein at the Montreal Chest Institute, said a McGill release.

This study was recently published in the New England Journal of Medicine.