HIV patients should be given antiretroviral drugs earlier than currently recommended, according to a study.
An observational study published in the online edition of The Lancet found that people with HIV were 28% more likely to develop AIDS if they put off treatment until the point recommended in European guidelines.
Researchers at the University of Bristol analysed data from more than 45,000 people with HIV in Europe and North America.
Current guidelines recommend starting treatment once the CD4 cell count drops below 350 cells per μL of blood.
The authors of the study suggest suggest that a CD4 count of 350 cells per μL should be the minimum threshold at which antiretroviral therapy should begin.
Results showed that deferring combination therapy until the CD4 cell count had fallen to 251-350 cells per μL was associated with a 13% higher risk of death.
The authors said: ‘Unfortunately, many patients are not diagnosed with HIV until their CD4 count has fallen well below 350 cells per μL, sometimes even below 200 cells per μL.
‘It is important that people at possible risk of having HIV get tested regularly so that if found to be infected they can receive the necessary care and treatment.’