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HIV & AIDS Health Center

Study: Early Treatment Makes HIV Less Infectious

Uninfected Sex Partner 96% Less Likely to Get HIV if Infected Partner Is Treated
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Does HIV Treatment = HIV Prevention?

These new findings strongly suggest that the benefits and risks of HIV treatment go beyond the health of the infected individual.

"Now you are talking not only about the benefit to the individual, but also about the benefit for preventing transmission to others," Fauci says. "This tells us even with CD4 count over 350, those individuals really transmitted HIV. This tells us this [decision on when to start treatment] has less to do with what is good for [the infected person], and with what is the extra benefit concerning transmissibility."

The finding makes treating HIV infection even more important than it already is -- and treatment need outstrips resources.

Of the 33.3 million people now living with HIV, about 14.6 million are in desperate need of treatment. In low- and middle-income countries, only about 36%of people who need treatment are getting it.

Even in the U.S., more people need HIV treatment than are able to get it. Nearly 8,000 Americans are on state waiting lists to get HIV treatment through the AIDS Drug Assistance Program.

Treatment may make a person less likely to transmit HIV to another person, but it does not eliminate the risk.

"HIV-positive people cannot assume they are not infectious simply because they are already on treatment medications," warns CDC Director Thomas R. Frieden, MD, MPH, in a news release.

An ongoing clinical trial, also funded by the NIAID, is testing whether individuals benefit from starting treatment when their T-cell counts are over 500.

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