Evidence shows that early start of antiretroviral therapy saves lives

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In Lesotho, A woman holds the AIDS antiretroviral treatment medicine for her granddaughter. Photo: IRIN/Eva-Lotta Jansson

Additional evidence that starting antiretroviral therapy early can save lives has been welcomed by the UN agency dealing with HIV and AIDS, UNAIDS.

An international randomized clinical trial, known as the Strategic Timing of Antiretroviral Treatment or START has found compelling evidence that the benefits of immediately starting antiretroviral therapy outweigh the risks.

Ana Carmo reports.

Findings of research over the past several years indicate that there are health benefits of starting antiretroviral therapy at a higher CD4, which is a measure of immune system health.

CD4 cells are white blood cells that are part of the immune system to fight infection.

Data from the study showed the risk of AIDS other illnesses or death was reduced by 53 per cent among people who started treatment with antiretroviral medicine when their CD4 levels were 500 or above.

This was compared to the group whose treatment was deferred to when their CD4 levels dropped to 350.

UNAIDS says the findings from these studies will play an important role in shaping the new treatment guidance from the World Health Organization due to be released later this year.

Ana Carmo, United Nations.

Duration: 50″

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