New York: Health officials said Thursday they are recommending that any person living with HIV be offered AIDS drugs as soon as they are diagnosed with the virus, an aggressive move that has been shown to prolong life and stem the spread of the disease.Standard practice has been to have patients put off the expensive pill regimen — which can cost up to $15,000 a year in the United States — until the immune system weakens.But Health Commissioner Thomas Farley said recent studies have shown that the benefits of early treatment, combined with education and testing, appears to be a promising strategy for countering the epidemic."I`m more optimistic now than I`ve ever been about this epidemic that we can drive our new rates down to zero or close to it — eventually. I don`t know how soon. But I`m very optimistic of the direction that it`s going to take the epidemic to," Farley said in an interview Wednesday.More than 110,000 people in New York City are infected with HIV, more than in any other U.S. city and about 75 percent of all cases in the state. San Francisco, which had more than 18,000 people living with HIV, is believed to be the only other major city to have made a similar recommendation in 2010.City health officials said the new recommendation could initially help about 3,000 people get on medications. About 66,000 New Yorkers living with HIV that the Health Department tracks are being effectively treated with AIDS drugs, they said. But they said it was difficult to estimate how many people would eventually need the medications.
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