Originally published on Advocate.com October 28 2008 12:00 AM ET
A new study has
found that postponing treatment for people with HIV can
almost double their risk of death, compared to people
who get treatment early. The University of
Washington-Seattle study, revealed at a conference in
Washington, D.C., on Sunday, is the largest yet to
examine the trade-offs between starting on HIV medications
at diagnosis or waiting until later, when a person's
immune system is already sufficiently damaged, the
Associated Press reports.
newly infected patients without symptoms had been
advised to wait to start on meds until their T-cell
counts had dropped below 350 per cubic millimeter of
blood (a healthy count is more than 800), the AP
reports. Doctors had thought the side effects of the
drugs -- heart and cholesterol problems, diarrhea, and
nausea, to name a few -- were not worth it if the
patient had yet to present symptoms of AIDS.
University of Washington study shows that participants who
started treatment before their T cells dropped below 350 had
a 70% improvement in survival than the participants
who started treatment at below 350.
"The data are
rather compelling that the risk of death appears to be
higher if you wait then if you treat," Dr. Anthony Fauci,
director of the National Institute of Allergy and
Infectious Diseases, told the AP. (The institute
helped pay for the study.) Fauci also predicted that
treatment guidelines would soon be revised in light of the
new information, and that doctors would act on the
study's findings quickly.
Americans become infected with HIV each year. (The