Benefits of Early Treatment Outweigh Risk in HIV Patients

Researchers weigh risk and reward in starting early antiretroviral therapy in patients with HIV.

The benefits of starting treatment early on in patients infected with HIV outweigh any potential adverse events from these drugs, a recent study suggests.

The optimal time to begin antiretroviral therapy (ART) has long been debated among physicians, with concerns that drug toxicities negating the benefits from viral control. However, researchers from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) indicate 3 large clinical trials have definitively shown the benefits from early ART therapy outweigh any potential risk.

The researchers examined the NIH-funded SMART study published in 2006, the HPTN 052 study published in 2011, and the START study published in 2015, which conclusively showed that starting ART soon after diagnosis protects the health of the infected patient and prevents HIV transmission to uninfected partners, according to the NIAID.

The IPERGAY study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, examined the use of ART in HIV prevention, which is called pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP).

The results of the study showed the administration of PrEP near the time of sexual activity in men who have sex with men and transgender women at high risk of HIV infection made these individuals 86% less likely to become infected than similar individuals who took a placebo.

As a result of these studies, NIAID researchers concluded that combined PrEP and quick initiation of ART in HIV-infected patients is a promising blueprint for ending the global HIV/AIDS pandemic.