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More compelling evidence on why earlier HIV treatment lengthens survival
Date:4/2/2009

Seattle A study showing improved survival of starting antiretroviral treatment earlier than current U.S. recommendations is being reported in the April 30 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine. The study found that not starting HIV patients at a CD4 count greater than 500 cells per cubic millimeter increased risk of death by 94 percent.

"The question of when to start antiretroviral therapy has been one of the key controversies in HIV care for over a decade" said University of Washington's Dr. Mari Kitahata, the lead researcher on the study. "Our study adds a lot of weight to the growing body of evidence that starting treatment earlier in HIV disease prolongs survival."

Current U.S. guidelines recommend treatment for asymptomatic patients who have a CD4 count of less than 350. However, these guidelines lack data from randomized clinical trials regarding the timing of antiretroviral therapy.

Since 1996, when potent antiretroviral therapy was introduced and recommended for asymptomatic HIV patients with a CD4 count less than 500 cells per cubic millimeter, there has been uncertainty about when to start treatment.

The article, "Effect of Early versus Deferred Antiretroviral Therapy for HIV on Survival," reports on two analyses of 17,517 asymptomatic patients with HIV infection receiving care between 1996 and 2006. The data were gathered through a recent collaboration of 22 research groups in more than 60 sites in the United States and Canada -- the North American AIDS Cohort Collaboration on Research and Design (NA-ACCORD).

In order to study the impact of earlier initiation of therapy, researchers needed a large number of patients at high CD4+ counts who are observed for a long period of time to a definitive endpoint of death. Because of the combined effort of one of the largest collaborations of HIV cohorts and researchers, researchers had the data to examine the effect of early AIDS treatment.

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Contact: Mari Kitahata, MD, MPH
kitahata@u.washington.edu
206-744-3677
University of Washington - Health Sciences/UW News, Community Relations & Marketing
Source:Eurekalert

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