Taking HIV drugs earlier could curb new infections
May 12th, 2011
03:58 PM ET

Taking HIV drugs earlier could curb new infections

People living with HIV are less likely to pass on the virus to their sexual partners when they immediately receive medication.

An international study that included more than 1,700 couples showed that taking antiretroviral (ARV) drugs immediately, instead of waiting for the immune system to be weakened,  led to a 96.3% reduction in HIV transmission to a sexual partner who does not carry the virus.

“We’ve speculated for a number of years, in theory, that treating an infected individual should reduce infectiousness to others,” said Dr. Sten Vermund, one of the investigators in the study.

“This was a rigorous clinical trial that proved the concept if you put people on ARVs even before they need it for their own health, it might reduce infectiousness to others.”

Instead of thinking of antiretrovirals strictly as a treatment tool, the medication could also be a prevention tool to curb new infections, said Vermund, who is the director of the Vanderbilt Institute for Global Health.

The study suggests that giving antiretrovirals to someone immediately after infection could first benefit the patient with HIV and reduce the spread to others.  The study called HPTN 052, funded by the National Institutes of Health, was scheduled to end in 2015, but the results were released early Thursday because of the clarity of the findings.

"This new finding convincingly demonstrates that treating the infected individual - and doing so sooner rather than later - can have a major impact on reducing HIV transmission,”  Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said in a news release.

The study followed 1,763 heterosexual couples from 13 cities in Botswana, Brazil, India, Kenya, Malawi, South Africa, Thailand, the United States and Zimbabwe. The couples were serodiscordant – meaning one person has the HIV, and the other does not have the virus.

CNN: Love in the time of HIV/AIDS

In the study that started April 2005, the HIV-infected partners were randomly assigned to immediately take antiretroviral drugs or to take the drugs when their immunity fell below a certain level or if they experienced an AIDS-related event.

Of the 1,763 couples, 28 new cases of HIV were reported in which their HIV-infected partner was found to be the source of infection. Twenty-seven of the infections were in the group that deferred their antiretroviral therapy.  Only one was found in the group that started taking the medication immediately.

“It makes sense,” said Dr. Alvin Friedman-Kien, dermatologist and virologist at New York University Langone Medical Center, who treats HIV/AIDS patients. “The incidence of infected virus would obviously be lowered if you took the antiretroviral medicine.  But if I were somebody who had a partner who was HIV positive I wouldn’t take that risk. I would make sure they used condoms and protected sex.”

Friedman-Kien was not involved in the study.  He cautioned that even a person on proper antiretroviral therapy could have a few virus particles floating around – and it takes just one virus particle to infect another person.

The concept that a patient should immediately take antiretrovirals after diagnosis has already been proposed by public health officials in San Francisco, California, and Vancouver in Canada.  But, many in America as well as developing countries cannot get access to the medications despite having dire medical needs.

CNN's Elizabeth Landau contributed to this report.

soundoff (211 Responses)
  1. William s. Lovecraft

    Why delude these idiots with the idea of god (lower g) to prove your point? Besides getting you out of that car wreck or helping you test negative to a pregnancy or AIDS test do you really care unless god is on YOUR side?

    May 13, 2011 at 04:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Fokjou

    This just in: wearing condoms will also 'curb new infections'....

    May 13, 2011 at 04:29 | Report abuse | Reply
    • 4mercy

      Abstinence works best.

      May 13, 2011 at 17:22 | Report abuse |
  3. Lu1980

    People are need of medication, here in the a USA. How is it that these other country get medication before we ever get them?

    May 13, 2011 at 05:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. nola

    Wow, no wonder a cure hasn't been found for AIDS, cancer or even the common cold...all of the "experts" are reading & commenting on CNN! Put down your keypad & mouse & get back to work!!!

    May 13, 2011 at 06:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Laura

    To everyone who says this is a GAY disease IT IS NOT! My husband's ex wife gave it to him while she was pregnant with their child. He did not deserve it. He does not deserve to die. She does but not him. Thank God my stepson does not have it! And this new finding is great for those of us who fell in love with someone who is HIV positive! My husband and I are Very devoted Christians and we do not believe that anyone who has this deserves it. However, as long as you always protect yourself there is never any question. I pray daily for each individual person that has this horrible disease, gay or straight, male or female, white or black! Proverbs 22:2 says 'The rich and the poor have one thing in common; God created us all!'

    May 13, 2011 at 07:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. John S

    Watch House of Numbers, they say that HIV doesn't even exist, and I believe it...

    May 13, 2011 at 08:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Alison

    The cost of the medicine is outrageous but there are programs to help pay for the medicines. If you have medicaid, it will pay for the prescriptions, but if you don't have any form of insurance check with your state ADAP program (AIDS DRUG ASSISTANCE PROGRAM) for income guidelines. Some states have waiting lists but most do not. In Illinois guidelines say you must meet be at or below the FPL of 300% (begnining in July, currently it is 500%) which means you can make up to $32,670 for a family of 1 and still receive FREE HIV medication. Also, ADAP can still help even if you have private insurance. Look for an AIDS Service Organization near you or contact your local health department.

    May 13, 2011 at 08:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Miraculous

    Aids can be cured in Guinea West Africa. Call Doc Barry at 011 224 64 54 6817

    May 13, 2011 at 09:02 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Viviana

      ICW-AFICAICASA is the first and most imrnptaot venue for the AIDS activist community to take charge. Force all government representatives to discuss how they are going to fix the Global Fund and get the money flowing. All sessions should now focus on one thing and one thing only – how to get the Global Fund back in business and how to do so in ways that ensure good community involvement and without corruption. The community response to the canceling of Round 11 must start in Addis with African activists leading the

      February 1, 2012 at 01:41 | Report abuse |
    • xefvjkhias

      NHSKyL qennidmzsilc

      February 3, 2012 at 12:11 | Report abuse |
    • xznkzlt

      ukRusE tqsahljbmjwr

      February 6, 2012 at 03:57 | Report abuse |
  9. Alive&kicking

    I was diagnosed in 2002 and naturally maintained a very low HIV viral load until 2008 when it went to undetectable levels. In late 2010, my CD4 T-cells started dropping but my viral load remained undetectable. No-one can explain it so they put me on medication. Now I live in perpetual fear of missing a dose or of running out of pills. I long for the day when we can crush this disease once and for all.

    May 13, 2011 at 09:10 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Alive&kicking

      Forgot to mention that never gotten sick a day in my life but allergic to almost everything.

      May 13, 2011 at 09:34 | Report abuse |
    • L.M.

      As someone who reads patient materials on HIV for a living, I understand your fear and like you, I pray for the day that this terrible disease meets its match and the people who were once infected can go on without worrying about missing a dose of their meds or living by the clock or fearing a mutating virus or side effects. It always pained me that had Freddie Mercury lived another year, he may have lived to see treatment and lived a much longer life. You and everyone who has been touched by HIV are in my prayers. I wish you good health.

      May 13, 2011 at 10:10 | Report abuse |
    • Chris

      People with strong immune systems don't get sick as often, but have worse allergies. Read that yesterday, and it would fall in line with me and my father's symptoms.

      May 13, 2011 at 10:12 | Report abuse |
    • Supporting The Cure

      Dear Alive and Kicking;
      Much praise and encouragement for you as you live with the effects of this disease. I can't imagine the precautions you must take with the allergies – you must be an avid label reader and research a ton on a regular basis. Best wishes as you walk down your path in life, and to all the thousands of HIV + individuals on their own journeys.

      May 13, 2011 at 11:43 | Report abuse |
  10. max in ny

    This is AMAZING....go science

    May 13, 2011 at 09:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Paper22

    We are very close to having more treatment options and very close to a vaccine. Hang in there everyone. Keep getting good information and encouragement out to those who need it most. Be safe and considerate, it's still a few years out, but we're getting there and now having HIV is not a death sentence as there are many treatment options available. But, we're not in the clear yet, we need 5 to 7 more years of research and vaccine development. Prevention and education are vital...

    May 13, 2011 at 09:34 | Report abuse | Reply
    • TheTeacherThePreacher

      Hate to be killjoy, but we are nowhere near a vaccine. Every type of vaccine that's been developed has shown at the most 30% protection, which is not enough to warrant approval and mass vaccinations. They are essentially out of ideas for making an HIV vaccine. The NIH has practically given up on the idea, until a breakthorugh technology comes along. On the other hand, the treatment options (drugs) are better than ever, but be careful ou there; a life sentence of having to take these drugs is something you want to avoid.

      May 13, 2011 at 12:10 | Report abuse |
    • Nurse Lisa

      The Teach is correct – and to simplify – the big problem in making an effective vaccine is due to HIV being an RNA rather than DNA virus – viruses take over the cell nucleus and replicate till cell bursts then new viruses invade other cells, etc. Starting as RNA means copying errors occur – new viruses are not always identical to their precursor and these errors in genetic coding during replication of the virus mean a vaccine targeting a single version of HIV may not be effective at the treating other varieties simultaneously copying themselves with new errors in coding too. This is why promiscuity or exposure to multiple types of HIV genetic codes often means a worse prognosis.

      May 13, 2011 at 12:25 | Report abuse |
    • angel banal

      are you a doctor who specialize in hiv??

      May 13, 2011 at 12:38 | Report abuse |
  12. herrsidwell

    Most of you posting should read up a bit on the history of the epidemic and educate yourselves about the real issues surrounding this. The absurd notion that HIV drugs are kiilling people is laughable. I recommend "And the Band Played On" for a thorough, journalistic and well-told account of where HIV came from, how it spread, etc. As to the idea that the study is morally questionable..think about if the study participants were left to their own devices, they would most certainly infect their partners. And the information gained is valuable. It's not like the researchers went around infecting people.

    EMVAZ, do YOU have any scientific proof for your claims? Studies you can cite that have been replicated? I'm genuinely curious. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence...

    May 13, 2011 at 09:54 | Report abuse | Reply
    • ChristianP

      Hi, you can find the article at HIV Prevention Trial Network's website. It on their first page today. http://www.hptn.org/index.htm

      May 13, 2011 at 10:54 | Report abuse |
  13. bellestarrr

    As part of the republican budget cuts includes kicking people of their HIV meds assistance such as Adap..because of diminished funding people that need the medication desparately are now on waiting lists...the GOP newest tactic is to reduce the Federal Poverty level to $21,750.00...that would mean if you make above that your on your own with your meds which can run almost $1000.00 or better monthly...that would mean that 50% of your monthly income would go for meds..the Gop doesnt care about that as long as they can Obama to go along with continued Tax breaks for the rich and corporations and spend 2 Billion dollars a week on the Wars....if you think for ONE MINUTE that the Republicans or Democrats(your elected officials ) care whether you live or die....forget it...they only care about getting re-elected ANYWAY they can..if some folks get bumped from livesaving medications too bad...its their own fault anyway(according to them...those wonderful christian conservatives and caring elected officials)....i say off with their heads and Im not the queen of hearts!!!

    May 13, 2011 at 09:56 | Report abuse | Reply
    • L.M.

      Hi. Are you a patient or do you know someone who is? There are programs that can help get you access to meds depending on which meds you need. I don't know how helpful each of the individual programs are, but some of them ARE good. Please google pharmaceutical assistance programs, and sites like thebody.com and the gay mens health crisis may help. God bless.

      May 13, 2011 at 10:13 | Report abuse |
    • Chris

      The federal poverty level for a single person is currently $10,890 so I am not sure where you are getting your information but you may want to take another look at your facts. I currently fall under the 2 person family size and the level is $14,710. In order to qualify for drug assistance (which is a state thing not federal) I would need to make under 300% of the the federal poverty guideline which would put that number at $44,130. For a single person that would be $32,670 gross income per year. Keep in mind this is my state of Ohio and I am not sure about yours. The cost of HIV meds is simply way to high and most everyday ppl cannot afford $1300 a month (the cost of my medication) even if you make $45,000 a year. Keep in mind that is only the medication to treat the HIV and not the doctors visits, tests, and any other complications that may come up during the year as a result of the HIV infection. On a side note, it is sad that a company is allowed to have a patent on a drug that makes creating an affordable generic alternative illegal. These are the types of things I despise reading about everyday when I am the one looking down the barrel of the gun called HIV, not some drug company executive.

      June 6, 2011 at 01:40 | Report abuse |
  14. RepublicanHealthCarePlan

    Soylent Green.

    May 13, 2011 at 09:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. dave R

    Ignorant people pray for a change, smart people get it done.

    May 13, 2011 at 10:12 | Report abuse | Reply
    • L.M.

      And some people do both. What are YOU doing?

      May 13, 2011 at 10:15 | Report abuse |
    • my6cents

      Ignorant people keep behaving in ways that cause themselves harm and then scream for the govt. to keep its nose out of their lives. Then when the trouble comes they scream why isn't the govt. doing something to save us.

      May 13, 2011 at 11:45 | Report abuse |
    • Smithir


      Sounds like the tea party.

      May 13, 2011 at 12:26 | Report abuse |
    • 4mercy

      @ my6cents – well said.

      May 13, 2011 at 17:12 | Report abuse |
  16. Flaka

    My gay cuzin died 2 months ago from HIV. He knew he had it and never got treated bc he knew he was going to die no matter what so he did not want to waste money he did not have in meds. He lasted 10 years with the virus in his body until it killed him. .sad.

    May 13, 2011 at 10:44 | Report abuse | Reply
    • G in SB

      I am a long term survivor I was diagnosed in 1997 life isn’t always easy but I live and love. So sorry to hear your cousin basically chose suicide, I have a wonderful life I work full time and have a great husband. This disease is not the death sentence it once was if you get the proper treatment. But really after being diagnosed 14 years ago I am still nowhere near death or even unable to take care of myself. Your cousin had a long life left ahead of them.

      May 13, 2011 at 14:14 | Report abuse |
  17. raziel

    The study I find to be Interesting however if the gays stopped having bug chasing/ gift giving parties, stop pretending to be victims when you are the agressors. Maybe HIV infections would drop in "developed countries"

    May 13, 2011 at 11:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. shocked

    Thank you John R. for finally commenting on Chris' serious, hateful comments. I felt a chill when I read his or her comment, and I was even more disgusted that it took over 2 hours of posting for anyone to say something about it.

    May 13, 2011 at 11:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. erich2112x

    i realize that i'm an idealist, but here we have a disease that could be wiped off the face of the earth in a couple of generations if the human behaviors would change.

    May 13, 2011 at 11:35 | Report abuse | Reply
    • erich2112x

      Take away the host, and the virus dies.

      May 13, 2011 at 11:37 | Report abuse |
  20. erich2112x

    I've never understood why it is so politically incorrect to ask the high risk groups for HiV to change their behaviors. Why are we so mean and bigoted to ask folks to stop committing mass suicide?

    May 13, 2011 at 11:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. Burger

    That's Great News!!
    They will need to conert it into an aerosole spray for use in Africa though so they can use crop dusters to spray it. Mass infections there!

    May 13, 2011 at 11:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. DrLee

    I know...right?

    May 13, 2011 at 11:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. May

    free will people! God has given us free will and our own actions created this horrible dissease, seriously, its not a punishment sent from heaven or anything....so you see, its also our own free will that is pushing science to find a cure and we're almost there! Just read this article!! God created us with a gigantic potential so both praying and getting things done go hand in hand in this war on HIV. 🙂 I was exposed to it a few years back but my tests came out clean. Hang in there guys! People are both praying and getting things done 😀

    May 13, 2011 at 12:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. Cali Medi

    This is not only a gay disease. I was a firefighter/paramedic in a fairly large west coast city. I have a wife and 3 children. On a routine medical call, overdose of heroin, a patient became extremely combative. To make a long story short I was bitten by the patient almost down to the bone just above my wrist generally where one would wear a watch. 7 months later, I tested positive for HIV. I am now no longer able to work, am shunned by former co-workers and am almost completely dependent on my wife as far as income goes. I know most likely I will not be able to see my kids grow up I ask before you judge someone, remember, not everyone contracts HIV through promiscuous behavior. Through support groups, I can't tell you how many women I have met who have contracted HIV via a cheating husband. This disease does not only effect the gay population, and it is said to see people in this day and age condone anyone. As for the people who believe God sent this disease. Ignorance is bliss. I hope everyone else living with this disease will live to see the day that a cure is found.

    May 13, 2011 at 13:02 | Report abuse | Reply
    • True Christian

      Obviously, you never found Jesus in your life and your family as well as you is paying for it now. Jesus saves.

      May 13, 2011 at 13:17 | Report abuse |
    • 4mercy

      True Christian, you are anything but.

      May 13, 2011 at 17:15 | Report abuse |
    • there2

      cali medi – best of luck to you and your family. True Christian...was that sarcasm? If not, you're an evil fcuk, aren't you!

      May 13, 2011 at 17:43 | Report abuse |
    • Vera Waitress

      Incendiary posts are written by imposters. No Christian of sound mind would write this. (Note that the most acerbic comments usually have a pseudonym that clearly conveys the ideology that the real poster is trying to thwart. ChristianityLives or BibleRules or MuslimLesson.)

      May 15, 2011 at 11:26 | Report abuse |
    • Shellshocker

      Sorry Cali Medi about your injury! I too was a paramedic and had several scares due to various reasons. Thankfully I always tested negative. I hope that workmans comp is paying for your medications? I know California can be horrible if your injured and for me a back injury that required surgery forced me out of my job, and then the workman comp insurer went bankrupt. I wish you the best of luck and remember to keep on fighting!

      May 15, 2011 at 11:57 | Report abuse |
  25. André

    The cure for AIDS was published more than 6000 years ago. Monogamy and lifelong faithfulness. The ability to follow this piece of good fatherly advice is after all what distinguishes humans and noble animals (Eagle, Emperor penguin, etc) from animals.

    May 13, 2011 at 14:20 | Report abuse | Reply
    • there2

      obviously, you haven't a clue as to the difference between "prevention" and "cure".

      May 13, 2011 at 17:44 | Report abuse |
  26. Conor Mccartney

    Thank god for new HIV medications

    May 15, 2011 at 18:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. RostamI

    Let us hope that such news do not give a false sense of security and hope, especially to the younger generation who may see themselves as invincible and indestructible.

    May 16, 2011 at 03:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. NANCY


    May 19, 2011 at 04:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. Sebastian

    I think there are a lot of natural medicine to be try.One of that is asian herb leaf.Strobilanthes crispa tree leaf is a natural medicine which can inhibit the growth of HIV retroviruses. This is best drugs alternative. Full article founded whathotnews.blogspot.com.Many people use this leaf as traditional method. Just for sharing info

    August 14, 2011 at 13:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. question

    has any one heard of VIP?

    this is the solution for HIV we have been looking for, there should be a lot of support for this, as it has been shown to work 100% on lab mice.

    if we are going to get a cure for HIV, cancer etc thats the way to go.

    December 29, 2011 at 09:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. Kizza

    I found a new girlfriend, she's 17 years but am 18, after three months since we met, she told me that she was born HIV positive, but we always had protected sex, am worried that i might be infected coz i once found blood out on the condom when i took her virginity but the condom wasn't teared,but since she told me, i stopped having sex with her but we've been kissing yet i some times get and have cuts in the mouth, is there any risk, please give me some advice and brief, thank you

    June 12, 2015 at 18:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. stella maris

    The Great Dr.lucky herbal medicine is a good or perfect cure remedy for HIV Virus, I was diagnose of HIV for almost 5 years, everyday i am always on research looking for a perfect way to get rid of this terrible disease as i always knew that what we need for our health is right here on earth though the scientist say there is know cure for this disease,on my search I saw some different testimony on how Dr. lucky has been able to cure HIV with is herbal medicine. I decided to contact this man, I contacted him and he guided me on how to purchase for the medicine. I asked him for solutions and he started the remedies for my health. Thank God, now everything is fine, I’m cured by Dr.lucky herbal medicine, I’m very grateful to Dr. lucky, reach him now on ( homeofnaturalremedy@gmail.com or check his website http://homeofnaturalremedy.wixsite.com/naturalremedy also available on +2349050606649

    January 12, 2017 at 09:26 | Report abuse | Reply
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