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Treatment reduces transmission risk

Positive Living article • Adrian Ogier • 26 May 2011
HIV prevention

We have known for some time that HAARTHighly Active AntiRetroviral Therapy ??? aggressive treatment of HIV infection using several different drugs together. reduces the likelihood of transmitting HIV, and the recent results from a large clinical trialA clinical trial is a research study to answer specific questions about vaccines or new therapies or new ways of using known treatments. Clinical trials are used to determine whether new drugs or treatments are both safe and effective. Carefully conducted clinical trials are the fastest and safest way to find treatments that work in people. Trials are in four phases: Phase I tests a new drug or treatment in a small group; Phase II expands the study to a larger group of people; Phase III expands the study to an even larger group of people; and Phase IV takes place after the drug or treatment has been licensed and marketed. seem to confirm the fact . . . in heterosexual couples, at least.

The study showed that when the positive partner in a serodiscordant relationship is on treatment, the risk of transmission is reduced by 96%, compared to the risk when treatment has been deferred.

The HPTN 052 trial, begun in April 2005, was conducted at 13 sites in nine countries and enrolledThe act of signing up participants into a study. Generally this process involves evaluating a participant with respect to the eligibility criteria of the study and going through the informed consent process. 1,763 serodiscordant couples, 97% of which were heterosexual. All the positive partners had CD4 counts between 350 and 550 at the beginning of the study and included 890 men and 873 women.

Half of those received treatment immediately, and half had treatment deferred until their CD4 count fell below 350 or he or she developed an AIDS-defining complication.

Everyone received counselling on safe sex, free condoms and treatment for any sexually transmitted diseases that occurred during the study.

When the monitoring committee examined the interim results in April, it found 39 new HIV infections. Twenty-eight of the infections clearly came from the person’s partner (based on genetic analysis of the virusA small infective organism which is incapable of reproducing outside a host cell.) and 27 of these were in the group where treatment with antiretroviralA medication or other substance which is active against retroviruses such as HIV. drugs had been deferred.

While the results are positive, there is now even more urgency to test this approach in a gay male population.

‘Gay men still make up the vast majority of people living with HIV in Australia and we look forward to seeing further research focusing on this population,’ said Jo Watson, NAPWHA’s Executive Director.

HIV treatments are specifically for people living with HIV to best manage their own personal health, but NAPWHA continues to support other ongoing research about the potential benefits of treatments across diverse populations.

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From Positive Living

This article was first published in the June 2011 issue of Positive Living — more than two years ago.

While the content of this was checked for accuracy at the time of publication, NAPWHA recommends checking to determine whether the information is the most up-to-date available, especially when making decisions which may affect your health.