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ADVANCE Discourse: Lab

"A Defining Moment"

Published June 2, 2015 1:04 PM by Michael Jones

The global fight against HIV has improved dramatically in the past decade, but the results of a recent study could lead to an enormous change in the way the virus is treated moving forward. An article from the New York Times noted how the study was stopped after just two months due to the drastic difference in outcomes. With those who received immediate treatment with antiretroviral drugs “53 percent less likely to die during the trial,” the impact of fast clinical action following a diagnosis was unprecedented. 

“This is a defining moment for social justice,” said Michel Sidibé, executive director of UN AIDS, in the New York Times article. “People will be scared, saying, ‘Oh, it will be a big number.’ But this puts an end to the false debate about whether to pay for treatment.”

While not necessarily in the budget, groups like The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria have been pushing for better funding in an effort to start treatment more immediately for all patients internationally – a costly endeavor. According to the NY Times article, New York has recommended immediate treatment locally here in the Unites States since 2011, as the “several other studies have shown that people taking their drugs regularly are more than 90 percent less likely to infect others.” With that said, the story also noted that many patients are slow to start treatment while they are still healthy given the reputed harsh side effects of antiretroviral drugs from the 1990s. Fortunately, with the introduction of tenofovir in 2001, modern drugs have fewer side effects.

“The evidence for this has been building for quite some time,” said Susan P. Buchbinder, MD, director of HIV prevention at the San Francisco department of public health, in the story. “But now it’s clear that people should be offered treatment right away and told why it’s beneficial.”

Current international regulations vary depending on the respective nation. A normal CD4 count (CD4 cells per cubic millimeter) ranges between 500 and 1,200, but HIV patients routinely fall under 500 and “”full-blown AIDS” patients fall under 200. Although it is now being recommended that treatment starts at a 500 CD4 count, many nations simply don’t have the funding to start so soon. Due to the undeniable results of the recent study, there is potential for dramatic improvement of the standards for both local and international treatment. 

posted by Michael Jones

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