AIDS Treatment Should Start Earlier Than Previously Thought

The Washington Post is reporting that AIDS treatment should begin sooner than originally thought.  A study partially paid for the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases found a 70% improvement in those who started therapy when their T-cell count was between 350 and 500, compared to those who waited until their T-cell count dropped to 350–the initiation point under current guidelines.  The studies show that holding off treatment until the immune system suffers serious damage nearly doubles the risk of dying within the next few years.  Moreover, patients who start their treatment earlier have a better chance of getting their T-cell count back to normal.

Read more about current AIDS treatment guidelines, after the jump.Drug treatments available since the 1990s have transformed HIV into a manageable chronic disease rather than a death sentence.  These life-saving drugs do have negative powerful side effects, however, including causing heart and cholesterol problems, diarrhea, nausea among other things. Patients must also take the drugs regularly and faithfully to minimize any chance that the disease becomes drug-resistant.  Both the risk of resistance and the powerful side effects have led the government to recommend that patients with T-cell counts above 350 hold off on initiating drug treatment.

“The data are rather compelling that the risk of death appears to be higher if you wait than if you treat,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, which helped pay for the study.

About 56,300 Americans are newly infected with HIV each year.

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