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Treating HIV Immediately: August 28, 2012

At this year’s international AIDS conference, experts recommended new guidelines that start treating new HIV patients immediately, rather than waiting for indicators in their blood cell count to drop. It calls for using post-exposure therapies.

Times have changed when it comes to living with HIV.

“HIV is no longer a death sentence. Now we have very effective drugs, and if people take those drugs, they can almost lead a normal life,” says Dr. Marshall S. D’Souza, an HIV Specialist with Lee Memorial Health System.

With better understanding comes better treatment. The latest advice is to start therapy as soon as possible, using post-exposure PEP.

“The main thing is to start the treatment early, as soon as possible, within 36 to 72 hours.  And the treatment is continued for four weeks, or 28 days,” says Dr. D’Souza.

It’s not quite the HIV morning after pill, but delivering high-dose antiretroviral drugs immediately may help cut off the spread of disease.  This cocktail of drugs typically reduces the viral load in HIV positive patients.

“It is the same drugs that we use to treat people with HIV. Either the two drugs -nucleoside reverse-transcriptase inhibitors and the protease inhibitors,” says Dr. D’Souza.

Previously, post-exposure treatment was used on people who were exposed to HIV in the workplace.

“We have got a large body of information on post-exposure prophylaxis for healthcare workers who accidentally get stuck by a needle,” says Dr. D’Souza.

For high-risk exposure or early HIV diagnosis, proper treatment can’t come soon enough.