"Test and Treat" strategy could halt HIV in 5 years

10:12, February 24, 2010      

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By testing and immediately treating people in high risk areas with antiretrovirals, the spread of HIV could be halted in five years, an expert has said at a meeting held by the American Association for the Advancement of Science in San Diego.

We could stop HIV spreading in five years and eliminate HIV/AIDS altogether in 40 years with the "test and treat" strategy, Dr Brian Williams of the South African Centre for Epidemiological Modeling and Analysis told the meeting over the weekend, according to media reports.

For years, people have been using drugs to save lives, but people living longer with HIV increases the potential for spreading the disease. While the search for a vaccine is important, "it's time to look beyond that," Williams said.

He explained that proper treatment makes a person 25 times less infectious.

There has been a rapid scaling up in the provision of antiretrovirals, but the rate of HIV-transmission and AIDS-related TB has not been reduced accordingly because the treatment is often given too late in the course of the infection, said the doctor.

Giving HIV-infected people the treatment much earlier would render them virtually non-infectious, he added.

Clinical trials of such "test and treat" strategy that could see the HIV pandemic halted within 5–10 years are soon to begin, Williams said. Small-scale trials in Canada, South Africa and the United States will examine the effectiveness of the new strategy.

However, the strategy would be expensive — 3 - 4 billion U.S. dollars a year for South Africa alone — and would rely on people's willingness to be tested and take a lifelong course of drugs, said Williams.

Source: Xinhua/Agencies

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