amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research

Early HIV Treatment Greatly Decreases Transmission Rate to Partners

Study shows that antiretroviral treatment for HIV has major prevention and health benefits



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Cub Barrett, Program Communications Manager
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NEW YORK (May 12, 2011)—amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research, on Thursday welcomed the results of a clinical trial that showed that relatively healthy people living with HIV who received early treatment with antiretrovirals (ARVs) were 96% less likely to pass on the virus to their uninfected partners.

Additionally, the trial results showed that people living with the virus also benefited from starting treatment with ARVs while their immune systems were still healthy—with CD4 counts between 350 and 550 cells/cubic meter. The trial was conducted by the HIV Prevention Trials Network with funding from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and it was the first major randomized clinical trial of its kind.

“The results of this study are extremely encouraging and demonstrate the power of ARVs to not only treat HIV infection, but also to prevent it,” said amfAR CEO Kevin Robert Frost. “It’s all the more important now that policymakers and funders realize that investments in AIDS research have tremendous payoff, and that this isn’t the time to scale back on our commitments, but rather to expand access to treatment.”

The clinical trial, known as HPTN 052, began in April 2005 and enrolled 1,753 serodiscordant couples—that is, one person was HIV-positive, the other negative—in 13 sites in Africa, Southeast Asia, and the United States. The trial was scheduled to go until 2015. However, an independent data and safety monitoring board (DSMB) concluded during a scheduled interim review that the results were unequivocally positive and ordered to end the trial.

These findings about the prevention power of ARVs, coupled with announcements in recent months about the effectiveness of vaginal microbicides for women and pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) for high-risk men who have sex with men (MSM), add one more element to an increasingly robust spectrum of HIV prevention tools, said Chris Collins, amfAR’s vice president and director of public policy.

“This study shows that reaching people with HIV earlier with the treatment they need can have far-reaching consequences for their health, their partner’s health, and the epidemic as a whole,” Collins said. “With the right resources, investments, and political will, we can make major inroads against the epidemic in the U.S. and worldwide.”

“Even in this challenging economic environment, investments in HIV/AIDS research continue to be validated—and validated in a big way,” Frost said. “If we’re serious about stopping the spread of HIV/AIDS, we need to continue to make these kinds of investments.”

About amfAR
amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research, is one of the world’s leading nonprofit organizations dedicated to the support of AIDS research, HIV prevention, treatment education, and the advocacy of sound AIDS-related public policy. Since 1985, amfAR has invested more than $307 million in its programs and has awarded grants to more than 2,000 research teams worldwide.

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