Study: Treating HIV patients cuts infection risk
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.