Sexual Health news - HIV

Early ART therapy proves to have many benefits

Treatment may seem overwhelming for individuals newly-diagnosed with HIV. The most common method to manage the disease is through antiretroviral (ART) therapy, which uses a combination of medications to keep the virus from multiplying in the body. Ultimately, ART can help a patient live longer, reduce the risk of developing non-related illnesses and reduce the chances of an affected person transmitting HIV to others, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

Experts suggest that the earlier the intervention begins, the more likely that treatment can slow the progression of the condition. In addition, a study released in July 2012 by the HIV Prevention Trials Network (HPTN) discusses further benefits of early ART and how it can delay or prevent the onset of AIDS, tuberculosis and even death.

"These new findings provide further confirmation of the health benefits of early antiretroviral therapy," said Myron Cohen, M.D., co-principal investigator of HPTN. "The combined prevention and treatment benefits of antiretroviral therapy make broader testing and treatment urgent and imperative."

ART may reduce rate of transmission and likelihood of other HIV-related events

The collected data from the study revealed to researchers that early ART can reduce HIV transmission by 96 percent in couples in which one partner is infected with HIV and the other is not. This finding has caused the World Health Organization to review its guidelines for treating the infection.

The HPTN study is ongoing. Between 2005 and 2010, researchers observed approximately 1,750 couples at multiple sites around the globe. In addition to ART therapy and primary care, participants received counseling, free condoms, testing and treatment for STDs. All individuals in the study will be followed until mid-2015 for further research purposes.

Currently, there are more than 30 ART drugs approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for HIV treatment, all of which fall into one of five classes, as reported by the HHS. For example, physicians may prescribe affected patients with three different ART drugs from two separate classes. This approach protects the individual from becoming resistant to the medications, which can be detrimental to the treatment process.