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Fri Oct 31 09:00:21 SAST 2014

ARVs can win HIV fight: study

MHLABUNZIMA MEMELA | 25 February, 2013 00:36
Bottles of antiretroviral drug Truvada. File photo.
Image by: AFP / AFP

The widespread use of antiretroviral therapy could decrease the HIV infection rate to the extent that the advance of the pandemic would be reversed.

This is according to a new study by the Africa Centre for Health and Population Studies, published by the University of KwaZulu-Natal on Friday.

The therapy is said to be highly beneficial .

A recent clinical trial involved couples, one of whom was HIV-positive, the other uninfected.

The trial showed that the treatment greatly reduced the likelihood that an HIV-infected individual would pass the virus onto a partner.

The study, led by Professor Frank Tanser, of the Africa Centre, was conducted in Hlabisa, northern KwaZulu-Natal. More than 24000 people participated.

The research showed that one in four adults is living with HIV.

During the study - between 2004 and 2011 - about 17000 HIV-negative people were repeatedly tested every two year on average.

Of these participants, 1413 became HIV-positive - a rate of 2.6% a year.

These people were given antiretroviral therapy when they qualified for treatment under South African guidelines.

When other well-established risk factors for infection were taken into account, an HIV-negative individual was nearly 40% less likely to acquire the virus in areas where therapy coverage was 30% to 40% of all people living with HIV.

"This study is extremely significant. It is another piece in the puzzle that shows how treatment keeps people healthy and productive, and at the same time significantly reduces the likelihood of transmission of the virus," said Tanser.

Tanser said that the results provide convincing evidence that the risk of catching HIV is reduced with the prolific use of antiretroviral therapy.

"It is the first time that we have been able to show such results in a population setting -- an important finding which will help guide the HIV response."

The full results of the study, which spanned seven years, were published in the journal Science last week.

  • UNAIDS has welcomed the South African findings, and has called on all countries and communities to achieve high coverage of antiretroviral therapy, for the benefit of both people living with HIV and for the communities in which they live.

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