Updated on 28 May 2015
The study is conducted by International Network for Strategic Initiatives in Global HIV Trials
Singapore: A major international randomized clinical trial has found that HIV-infected individuals have a considerably lower risk of developing AIDS or other serious illnesses if they start taking antiretroviral drugs sooner, when their CD4+ T-cell count-a key measure of immune system health-is higher, instead of waiting until the CD4+ cell count drops to lower levels.
Together with data from previous studies showing that antiretroviral treatment reduced the risk of HIV transmission to uninfected sexual partners, these findings support offering treatment to everyone with HIV.
The new finding is from the Strategic Timing of AntiRetroviral Treatment (START) study, the first large-scale randomized clinical trial to establish that earlier antiretroviral treatment benefits all HIV-infected individuals. The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health, provided primary funding for the START trial. Though the study was expected to conclude at the end of 2016, an interim review of the study data by an independent data and safety monitoring board (DSMB) recommended that results be released early.
"We now have clear-cut proof that it is of significantly greater health benefit to an HIV-infected person to start antiretroviral therapy sooner rather than later," said Dr Anthony S Fauci, director, NIAID. "Moreover, early therapy conveys a double benefit, not only improving the health of individuals but at the same time, by lowering their viral load, reducing the risk they will transmit HIV to others. These findings have global implications for the treatment of HIV."
The START study, which opened widely in March 2011, was conducted by the International Network for Strategic Initiatives in Global HIV Trials (INSIGHT) at 215 sites in 35 countries.