Too often, HIV’s ability to adapt causes drug resistance, which can tank your treatment. That’s why docs warn against missing doses: Med levels in your body must stay high to keep viral load low.

A few new studies suggest going further: walloping HIV with more drugs up front, then easing off to a simpler long-term regimen. This approach—induction or intensification therapy—is being appraised.

A German team sparked the notion by finding that drug resistance emerges soon after people start meds. Even with undetectable viral loads, pockets of resistant virus lurk.  No need to panic— treatment succeeds for many people despite these findings. But faster drops in viral load may produce better outcomes later.

Experts disagree on what this means. The German team found that a four-drug combo got HIV undetectable faster than three (reducing early resistance), suggesting a four-at-first method. But a similar U.S. study found no gain for four drugs versus three: “While interesting,” says study author Daniel Kuritzkes, MD,  “the [German] findings do not by themselves support using more drugs during the initial treatment period.”

Further research may settle the dust. But studies like these expand what we know about resistance—and may point the way to better health.