HIV-positive patients have a high chance of a "functional cure" if they receive antiretroviral drugs within two weeks of infection, according to initial findings of a Thai Red Cross Society (TRCS) research project.
The TRCS unveiled the finding yesterday as it reported on the progress of its HIV/Aids research project called "Search 010".
A total of 96 people participated in the project, which started in 2009.
Under the project, doctors gave antiretroviral drugs to 26 people, who had been infected with the HIV virus for no longer than two weeks, Jintanat Ananworanich, the project's head researcher said.
Blood tests taken after the patients had taken the drugs for two weeks found 24 participants, or 92%, had no HIV virus in their white blood cells, Dr Jintanat said.
"However, that doesn't mean there is zero virus in their body. They still have the virus, but at a safe level under a so-called functional cure," she said.
A functional cure is when the virus is reduced to such low levels that it is kept at bay even without continuing treatment.
Among patients who received antiretroviral drugs after being infected with the virus for longer than two weeks, only 53% were found with no HIV virus in their white blood cells.
The researchers are looking into whether the virus increases in a group of early-diagnosed patients who stop taking the drugs for five years.
"If the viral load is still kept at bay, it means patients who receive early treatment can live a normal life without having to take antiretroviral drugs," Dr Jintanat said.