A recent study published in the JAMA Internal Medicine journal reported that U.S. military members infected with HIV-1 and treated with antiretroviral therapy (ART) were even more likely to recover their immune-fighting CD4+ T-cells to regular levels than to develop AIDS. Furthermore, the study says that starting the treatment early is beneficial to obtain better results.
Starting the treatment early and accomplishing normal levels of CD4+ T-Cells, according to researchers, is beneficial in influencing the HIV disease course and developing a stronger immune responses. A normal value for CD4+ T-cell is more than 800 cells per cubic millimeter. The research team found that the two main conditions that were crucial to obtain a normal CD4+ level were starting the treatment within the twelve months of seroconversion and having CD4+ T-cell levels higher than 500 at the time ART was being initiated.
This study was built on data collected from patients’ treatment and outcomes in the Air Force, U.S. Army, Navy and Marines, and included about 1,100 soldiers diagnosed with HIV-1.
Sunil K. Ahuja, a professor of medicine, microbiology/immunology and biochemistry at the University of Texas Health Science Center San Antonio‘s School of Medicine and senior author of the study, said in a press release: “The immune system can be reconstituted most effectively and durably if ART is initiated quickly after infection,” pointing out the relevance of frequent testing for HIV for those at risk for it and a prompt availability to initiate ART treatments right after the infection is acquired even if the CD4+ count by the time the diagnosis is done is not the desirable.”
Jason F. Okulicz, first author, explained: “Drug regimens have become much more potent, so it is possible to suppress HIV quite easily. We are suggesting that achieving normalization of immunologic health comparable to that of an uninfected person, and making it stick for the long term, is also a critical goal. Conceivably this level of normalization of CD4+ counts will associate with a dampening of the risk for non-AIDS-related diseases we see frequently in our patients.”
Dr. Ahuja concluded by explaining that this work is the result of a partnership between the Veterans Administration and the UT Health Science Center and those at the San Antonio Military Medical Center,” and that the research has important implications not only for the military, but the civilian population as well.