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Starting Meds at Low Viral Load May Boost HIV Suppression

, by San Francisco AIDS Foundation

The decision to begin taking medication for HIV is very personal, but recent treatment guidelines have shifted toward starting antiretroviral therapy right away, to preserve immune system health before HIV disease progresses and CD4 cell counts drop.

Providing further support for early treatment, a new meta-analysis of findings from 21 clinical trials links the success of HIV treatment with lower viral load when treatment was started. At 48 weeks of HIV therapy, rates of viral suppression in these clinical trials were significantly lower for individuals who started treatment with viral loads above 100,000 copies/mL.

What do these finding mean for people who are not yet on antiretroviral therapy? Possibly not much, says Liz Highleyman, editor in chief of HIVandHepatitis.com, since starting treatment is the way to bring HIV viral load down. What this study does suggest, she notes, is that baseline viral load “may help predict the effectiveness of treatment, and people with high viral load may be candidates for more intensive regimens or advised to avoid less potent drugs.” (Considering starting HIV treatment yourself? Check out BETA’s “resource round-up” offering personal perspectives, key information, and helpful resources for first-timers.)

The journal article abstract is available here. To read Liz Highleyman’s summary and discussion of the article (excerpted below), visit HIVandHepatitis.com.

HIV Suppression is More Likely if Antiretroviral Treatment Starts When Viral Load is Low

Liz Highleyman

December 11, 2012

People who start antiretroviral therapy (ART) with a baseline HIV RNA level below 100,000 copies/mL have a better chance of achieving undetectable viral load during their first year on treatment, according to a meta-analysis of more than 20 studies published in the November 22, 2012, advance edition of HIV Medicine, the journal of the British HIV Association….

Click here to read the full summary over at HIVandHepatitis.com.

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