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Universal HIV testing and immediate treatment could reduce but not eliminate HIV/AIDS epidemic
Date:7/9/2010

Implementing a program of universal HIV testing and immediate antiretroviral treatment (ART) for infected individuals could have a major impact on the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Washington, DC, but a new study finds that it would not halt the epidemic, something that a previous report had projected. In a paper that will appear in the August 15 issue of Clinical Infectious Diseases and has been released online, researchers find that the so-called "test-and-treat" strategy could reduce new HIV infections by 15 percent over the next five years while conferring large survival benefits to HIV-infected patients.

"Test-and-treat will save lives, but it won't stop the HIV epidemic in its tracks all by itself," says Rochelle P. Walensky, MD, MPH, of the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) Division of Infectious Disease, who led the study." It is only a single new and important page in the HIV-prevention playbook."

Test-and-treat has been the subject of widespread interest and controversy in the scientific community. In January 2009, WHO scientists published a report in The Lancet suggesting that a voluntary system of annual HIV testing of all adults, followed by immediate provision of ART for those testing positive, "could nearly stop transmission and drive HIV into an elimination phase." Inspired by these findings, researchers and public health officials have rushed to design and implement test-and-treat studies and interventions. The National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) recently announced a two-year, $26.4 million partnership with the Washington, DC, Department of Health that includes a pilot study of the test-and-treat strategy. However, some experts have expressed concern that the assumptions underlying the WHO findings painted too optimistic a picture of the likely outcomes.

The current study used epidemiologic data and results from HIV screening programs conducted in the U.S. capital to give a realis
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Contact: : Sue McGreevey
smcgreevey@partners.org
617-724-2764
Massachusetts General Hospital
Source:Eurekalert

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