Starting HIV treatment at diagnosis slashes drop out, drug failure rates, China study finds

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Patients diagnosed with HIV who started antiretroviral treatment within 30 days had significantly lower rates of dropping out of treatment, and higher rates successful treatment, than those who started later, particularly those who started more than three months after their diagnosis, a study in China has found.

Researchers, led by Yan Zhao and Zunyou Wu of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported their findings, gathered from nationwide patient records spanning three years, in Clinical Infectious Diseases.

The findings on the benefits of immediate treatment upon diagnosis, are important, the authors note, at a time when too few patients gain the benefits of “early” treatment, which depends on being diagnosed early in the progression of infection. The message implicit in immediate treatment initiation, they write, counters misleading perceptions about HIV treatment and care that accompany postponing the start of treatment for months after diagnosis.

Acting on the findings, they write, is important but challenging in China, where it would mean providing immediate access to antiretroviral treatment for 200,000 people who have been diagnosed but currently remain untreated, while an additional 300,000 people are believed to be living with HIV, but unaware of their status.

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