Fred Schaich of IFARA spoke with Jens Lundgren, M.D., director of the Centre for Viral Diseases at Copenhagen University in Denmark about research on the best time to initiate HIV treatment. The START study, which is co-chaired by Lundgren, was recently unblinded because its data so convincingly showed the benefits of beginning antiretroviral treatment immediately after testing positive for HIV that it would have been unethical to continue the placebo arm of the study. START enrolled 4685 participants around the world, all of whom had high CD4+ cell counts at baseline. Half of the participants began to take antiretrovirals immediately, the other half waited until their CD4+ cell counts dropped to 350 cells/mm3.
Those not on treatment were significantly more likely to develop cancers or tuberculosis, even when their CD4+ cell counts were in the normal range. Lundgren thinks that HIV treatment "fills the holes in the immune system" caused by HIV. Study results indicated that even the 400 elite controllers (people whose viral loads have been suppressed for a long time, even though they are not taking antiretrovirals) included in the study would have benefitted from early treatment. The study also showed that CD4+ cell counts are not necessarily reliable identifiers for an impaired immune system, Lundgren said. Researchers need to identify other markers for this, he concluded.
The video above has been posted on TheBodyPRO.com with permission from our partners at the International Foundation for Alternative Research in AIDS (IFARA). Visit IFARA's website or YouTube channel to watch more video interviews from the conference, as well as earlier meetings.