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Early treatment helps slow spread of HIV among high-risk communities

Category: HIV

Frequent HIV testing and follow-up treatment with antiretroviral medications among infected individuals could dramatically cut the disease rate among men who have sex with men, one of the groups at the highest risk for infections, according to a new study out of the University of California, San Francisco.

The new report says that antiretroviral treatment could reduce the infection rate among this community by up to 60 percent within five years. This could benefit a large segment of society, as men who have sex with men make up three-quarters of the population living with the infection in San Francisco.

There is currently a debate in the medical community about when patients who receive positive HIV tests should begin treatment. Some say therapy should be started immediately, while others suggest delaying treatment.

However, after developing and testing mathematical models of disease spread the rate the disease would spread under these various approaches, the researchers found that when patients receive medications immediately following diagnosis, the infection spread throughout the population more slowly.

"Recent evidence suggests that, in addition to benefiting the individual, HIV treatment can reduce the likelihood of HIV transmission to other persons," said Edwin Charlebois, who led the study.

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