Wall Street Journal (07.27.12)
Starting antiretroviral therapy (ART) earlier rather than later is cost-effective and helps prevent AIDS-related illnesses, according to two studies presented at the 19th International AIDS Conference in Washington. The studies add to a body of evidence that already suggests early treatment initiation improves patient health outcomes and can help prevent onward transmission.
The first study followed HIV patients in South Africa and India over a period of five years or longer. One group began treatment early, when the immune system CD4 cell counts were 350-550. The other group began treatment later, once the CD4 count dipped below 250.
Over the long term, starting treatment earlier was cost-effective in both countries, researchers found. That meant the cost to save one life was less than one time the gross domestic product per capita.
“Early ART is a triple winner,” said study leader Rochelle Walensky of the Harvard Center for AIDS Research. “HIV-infected patients do better, their partners are protected and it is very cost-effective.”
The second study found that patients treated earlier also had fewer cases of TB and other AIDS-related illnesses, such as certain bacterial infections and herpes. Those conditions that did turn up were not as quick to develop as in the delayed-treatment group.