Study shows teenagers who took weekend breaks from anti-retroviral treatment fared as well as those whose treatment stayed continuous
SEATTLE, WA – Some three years after the call for an “AIDS-free generation” set out a vision of a world in which no child is born with the virus, and thanks to timely diagnosis and treatment, the virus is controlled in those who do have it, the goal remains challenged at every stage of childhood — from preventing transmission from mother to child, to diagnosing infants born with the virus, to access to appropriate pediatric treatment, to the challenges to treatment that adolescents face. Diana GIbb of University College London, presented a talk this morning on continuing gaps in responses to all of those, and attempts to address those gaps.
One answer that Gibb alluded to was a simple one — if teenagers living with HIV could take weekends off from treatment they could enjoy slightly more normal lives, along with savings of drug costs, and possibly reduced risks of long term effects from continuous life-long medicine.
The findings from a study called Breather, presented here Tuesday, indicate that could happen. The study followed young people living with HIV, whose viruses were suppressed, and who were taking treatment with a long half-life, and compared outcomes for those who took their pills five days a week with two days off, against those who took their medicine continually. Their outcomes were identical, with teenagers who took weekends of remaining virally suppressed. The study covered 48 weeks, and enrolled 199 young people across 11 countries.
While the study addresses one obstacle teenagers face in staying on treatment as they grow independent and spend time away from home to visit friends and family, it wasn’t long enough, to set the stage for changes in clinical practice, Karina Butler of Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital in Dublin, Ireland, who presented the findings said. But, she agreed a physician could take the findings into account when responding to the needs of an individual patient. More work remains to be done, she said, “but it’s nonetheless exciting data.”