HIV treatment discovery named ‘Breakthrough of the Year’

Washington: The finding that HIV treatment with antiretroviral drugs (ARVs) can actually prevent transmission of the virus from an infected person to his or her uninfected partner has been named “Breakthrough of the Year” for 2011 by a journal.

The clinical trial, known as HPTN 052, demonstrated that early initiation of ARV therapy in people infected with HIV reduces transmission of the virus to their partners by 96 percent.

The findings by researchers, including a number from John Hopkins, end a longstanding debate over whether ARV treatment of HIV-infected individuals can provide a double benefit by treating the virus in individual patients while simultaneously cutting transmission rates.

According to the journal Science, which named it as “Breakthrough of the Year”, it’s now clear that ARV treatment can also reduce HIV transmission.

Anthony Fauci, the government’s top HIV researcher, called the results “astounding”, while others have called them a “game changer” because of the near 100 percent efficacy of the intervention.

Researchers from Johns Hopkins provided oversight and support for all the laboratory testing in the trial, and also performed quality assurance testing and other specialized testing for samples coming from study sites.

“It’s wonderful for this trial to be recognized,” Susan H. Eshleman, head of the Network Laboratory for the HIV Prevention Trials Network, which supported the trial, said.

“This research moves the field of HIV prevention science forward, leading us on a path toward curbing the HIV epidemic. It provides a new direction for HIV prevention research and is beginning to shape public health policy,” she added.


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