The Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations (AFAO) has welcomed news of the early results of a major international study that found that early treatment halved the risk of people with HIV developing a range of serious illnesses.
The Strategic Timing of Antiretroviral Treatment (START) study looked at the risks and benefits of early versus delayed antiretroviral treatment. The study has been wound up ahead of time due to the conclusive findings. These results offer further support to Australia’s efforts to increase treatment uptake among all people with HIV. Evidence has existed for several years that HIV treatments dramatically reduce the infectiousness of people with HIV. The START study now indicates there is a clear benefit to individual health, even among people with high CD4 counts.
Clear Support for Initiating Early Treatment
AFAO Executive Director Rob Lake said it was great news, offering strong evidence to support what many health professionals have believed for some time. “We’ve thought for some time early treatment – rather than waiting – was beneficial,” Rob Lake said. “For health professionals, these results offer clear support for initiating treatment as soon as patients are ready. For people with HIV, who may be delaying treatment until their CD4 count starts to fall or who may be apprehensive for other reasons, these results should offer confidence that starting now is the best decision for long-term health,” said Rob Lake.
Australia is considered to have fairly high rate of antiretroviral treatment uptake among people living with HIV, thanks to the strong community support and education and the PBS scheme which subsidises the costs of medications. “In a country like Australia with a strong health system and PBS, the study results are great news because people with HIV can take advantage of the medicines straight away.”
AFAO said the study’s results would strengthen the fight for treatment in countries where access is poor. Globally only about 40% of people with HIV are able to access HIV treatments.
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