Early Combination Antiretroviral Therapy Can Prevent Brain Damage from HIV

Brain damage can begin early in infection, particularly during untreated infection, and can cause cognitive impairment.

Brain damage can begin early in HIV infection, particularly during untreated infection, and can cause cognitive impairment.

Early initiation of combination antiretroviral therapy (cART) can prevent HIV-related brain damage, according to study findings.

Past researchers have hypothesized that structural brain alterations may occur less than a year after exposure to the virus—known as the primary stage of HIV—and progressively worsen without cART. However, course of these changes that occur shortly after infection, as well as the impact of cART, is not well-characterized.

To answer these questions, researchers assessed 65 participants in the primary stages of HIV infection from December 14, 2005, through December 22, 2011. They also included 16 participants with chronic HIV and 19 HIV-negative participants for comparison. Those with chronic HIV had a history of HIV diagnosis for at least 3 years and were either cART naïve or had elected to interrupt therapy for at least 3 months before entering the study.

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