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Treating HIV-Infected Infants Early Helps Them Live Longer

Armen Hareyan's picture

HIV-Infected Infants Treatment

Hundreds of thousands of babies around the world are born each year with HIV - more than half a million in 2006 alone.

Caring for these children is complicated by the fact that their immune systems are not fully developed in the first year of life, which makes them especially susceptible to rapid HIV disease progression and death. The current standard of HIV care in many parts of the world is to treat infants with antiretroviral therapy - but only after they show signs of illness or a weakened immune system.

Now the initial results of an ongoing clinical trial sponsored by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), suggests that more HIV-infected infants survive if they are given therapy early on, regardless of their apparent state of health.

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This trial, called the "Children with HIV Early Antiretroviral Therapy" (CHER) study, is a phase III, randomized clinical trial led by Avy Violari, M.D., FCPaed (SA), of the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa, and Mark Cotton, MBChB, MMed, of the University of Stellenbosch in Cape Town, South Africa. Dr. Violari will present these findings on Wednesday, July 25 at the 2007 International AIDS Society Conference in Sydney, Australia.

"Children with HIV infection frequently show rapid disease progression within the first year of life due to their developing immune systems and susceptibility to other serious infections," says NIH Director Elias A. Zerhouni, M.D. "This is the first randomized clinical trial that shows that infants treated before three months of age will do better than infants who have their treatment delayed."

"The results of this trial could have significant public health implications worldwide," says NIAID Director Anthony S. Fauci, M.D. "Because these findings will cause experts to consider changes in standards of care in many parts of the world, NIAID has released details of the interim results to the World Health Organization, local ethics committees, regulatory authorities and other key stakeholders for their consideration and evaluation for possible implementation."

"These initial results also highlight the importance of diagnosing HIV infections early