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Monday, May 16, 2011

For HIV/AIDS, Treatment is Prevention

In a landmark breakthrough that could halt the march of HIV/AIDS, scientists say that treating HIV patients with AIDS drugs makes them less infectious.

The $73 million study funded by the National Institutes of Health was conducted in nine countries, and led by Myron Cohen, director of the Institute for Global Health and Infectious Diseases at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

The hopeful results come almost 30 years after the disease was identified among five homosexual men in Los Angeles. A combination of new and emerging HIV prevention methods has convinced many leading AIDS experts that they can dramatically constrict the torrent of new infections.

The randomized trial of 1,763 discordant couples validates a growing body of less rigorous research and is likely to inject new urgency and commitment to treatment campaigns, especially in Africa
Besides treating HIV patients with antiretroviral therapy to render them less infectious, male circumcision, which reduces the odds a man will acquire HIV, and a virus-blocking "microbicide" gel that women apply vaginally are becoming a vital arsenal in Africa’s anti AIDS campaigns.

These findings are likely to end, or at least tone down controversy over how resources should be spent on treatment versus prevention. Although many experts have argued that more emphasis should be put on prevention, the new study now provides compelling evidence that for HIV/AIDS, treatment can be and must be vital component of prevention.

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