More research seems to be pointing to how rapid treatment of the HIV virus with medication can "eliminate" the disease in some cases. The findings come two weeks after a baby infected with HIV at birth was found to be free of the virus after a few years.
Researchers at the Pasteur Institute in Paris treated 70 recently infected patients, who had contracted the virus between 35 days and 10 weeks earlier, with standard antiretroviral drugs.
After all of the patients had stopped taking the medication for various reasons, it was found that, in 14 of the subjects, the disease remained at a low enough level for them to stay off the medication. All of the 14 adults, none of whom are "super-controllers"—the one percent of the population naturally resistant to the disease, have been off the ARVs for an average of seven years.
Asier Saez-Cirion, one of the scientists on the projects, outlined the benefits to early treatment. "It limits the reservoir of HIV that can persist, limits the diversity of the virus and preserves the immune response to the virus that keeps it in check." The subjects all suffered bad reactions to being infected with the virus—a boon in their early diagnosis and treatment. "Paradoxically, doing badly helped them do better later," said Saez-Cirion.
[Image by Flickr user dalbera]