Early HIV treatment boosts welfare31st July 2012
Researchers in Uganda and the United States say that the early treatment of HIV-positive adults with the right drugs can produce major economic benefits in rural sub-Saharan Africa.
Speaking at an international AIDS conference in Washington, the researchers said that early initiation of antiretroviral therapy (ART) meant that people with better blood results were able to work 30% more hours than adults with a worse outcome.
The benchmark they used was the CD4+ count, a measure of health for people living with HIV.
They found that the children of parents with higher CD4+ counts were also more likely to attend school than those with lower counts.
These children's school enrolment rates were 15% higher than those of children with parents showing low CD4+ counts.
People living with HIV should normally begin ART when their CD4+ levels fall below 350 cells per microlitre, as CD4 counts of less than 200 cells per microlitre indicate that a person has developed full-blown AIDS.
The study, by researchers from the University of California, San Francisco, the San Francisco General Hospital and Trauma Center and Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda is the first population-level research into how socio-economic indicators differ among persons at various stages of HIV infection, and how rapidly people lose their ability to work.
It said the 'test and treat' strategy which combines regular testing for all people in countries with high HIV prevalence with improved access to care and early ART treatment, was linked to significant economic benefits.
Early intervention is given to HIV-positive people long before they start to become ill so as to keep them fairly healthy, and the amount of virus they carry at low levels, reducing the likelihood of transmission.
According to Hakim Sendagire, microbiology lecturer at the Makerere University College of Health Sciences, delayed treatment renders the body of someone with HIV vulnerable to opportunistic infection.
Earlier treatment meant that people were healthier and were more able to provide for their families, he said.
The Geneva-based World Health Organisation (WHO) endorses treatment for people with a CD4+ count of 250-350 cells per microlitre.
Experts say that adherence to treatment programmes is crucial, however, to minimise side-effects.
According to Joseph Matovu, a behavioural change expert at the School of Public Health Makerere University, the study's recommendations could cause further resistance to drugs because people might not adhere to treatment programmes if they are not actually showing signs of HIV-related illness.
The conference closed with a call for renewed global efforts to spread HIV treatment to everyone who needs it.
Around 34 million people are believed to be living with HIV globally, and early treatment could mean that huge costs are cut by preventing people from getting sick sooner than they otherwise might.
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Title: Early HIV treatment boosts welfare
Author: Luisetta Mudie
Article Id: 22449
Date Added: 31st Jul 2012