Study: Treat­ing HIV pa­tients cuts in­fec­tion risk

Austin American-Statesman - - WORLD & NATION - By Mar­i­lynn Mar­chione

New re­search shows that treat­ing peo­ple with HIV can pro­vide a pow­er­ful bonus: It cuts the risk that they will in­fect oth­ers.

New in­fec­tions plum­meted in parts of Canada as more peo­ple went on HIV drugs, which low­ered their vi­ral load and the chances they would spread it, the study found.

For ev­ery 100 peo­ple with HIV who started tak­ing AIDS drugs, new in­fec­tions dropped 3 per­cent in Bri­tish Columbia, where the study was done. The num­ber of new in­fec­tions there has been cut in half since 1996, match­ing a rise in treat­ment.

“The more peo­ple you put on ther­apy, the less trans­mis­sion there is,” said Dr. An­thony Fauci, di­rec­tor of the U.S. Na­tional In­sti­tute of Al­lergy and In­fec­tious Dis­eases. The drop in new cases in Canada “likely could not be ex­plained by any­thing else,” he said.

The U.S. govern­ment helped pay for the study. Re­sults were pub­lished on­line Sun­day by the Bri­tish med­i­cal jour­nal Lancet and were be­ing pre­sented at the In­ter­na­tional AIDS Con­fer­ence in Vi­enna.

The re­sults sug­gest that Canada’s pol­icy of free AIDS care is hav­ing a dou­ble ben­e­fit: to the peo­ple be­ing treated and to the pub­lic’s health.

In the United States, the study should boost ef­forts to more ag­gres­sively test and treat peo­ple and to plug fund­ing gaps that keep many from get­ting care now, AIDS ex­perts said.

An es­ti­mated 1.1 mil­lion Amer­i­cans have HIV, and about 20 per­cent of them don’t know it. About 55,000 new in­fec­tions oc­cur each year in the U.S., a num­ber that has held steady for a decade.

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