Taking a relatively short course of antiretrovirals (ARVs) during primary, or early, HIV infection (PHI) provides immunological benefits for about a year after interrupting treatment, aidsmap reports. Publishing their findings in PLOS ONE, researchers conducted a meta-analysis of eight studies of treatment during PHI in which there was both a treatment and a control arm. The studies, which were published between 2004 and 2012, had cohorts ranging from 11 to 822 participants. They took ARVs for between 12 and 86 weeks and were then followed for between nine months and six years after the treatment interruption.

A year after stopping ARV treatment, those who underwent early treatment experienced an average increase of 86 CD4 cells and saw their viral load cut in half, as compared with the control group. Because those who received treatment tended to have lower CD4 counts and viral load measurements before starting treatment, the investigators assumed this quirk in the data biased the apparent benefits of early treatment as too low. After adjusting the results accordingly, they found that there was an even greater benefit to the early treatment.

Early treatment was the most beneficial to those who started out with lower CD4s and a higher viral load. Across the board, the benefits petered out after a year or two.

To read the aidsmap story, click here.

To read the study, click here.