Interrupting HIV treatment could be beneficial
Patients who were assigned a break in treatment were monitored and put back on it for at least 12 weeks if two blood tests confirmed that the measure of the immune system's health had fallen below 350. They stopped the drugs again when the measure improved. Overall, patients who had a break in treatment were on medicines 37.5% of days compared with 99% of days in the continuous treatment group. They experienced less diarrhea and nausea, but suffered more from an oral and genital yeast infection. According to the study calculations of the amount of medication used by each group showed that the potential for diminishing use of antiretroviral drugs through scheduled treatment interruptions is substantial.
In another study published in today's Lancet, scientists at the University of Bristol in the U.K. looked at data from more than 22,200 HIV infected patients in Europe and North America who had started treatment for the first time between 1995 and 2003. Though control of HIV virus levels has improved over the years, the risk of death in the first year after starting treatment has remained about the same since, the researchers, led by scientist Margaret May, found. They also found evidence that the risk of the patients going on to develop AIDS has increased since 1998. The study links this to a spread in the respiratory disease tuberculosis, which also weakens the immune system. Tuberculosis is the leading cause of death in HIV-infected people, according to the WHO. (Bloomberg)
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