Infants born with HIV should be treated immediately—at around 7 weeks of age—according to a South African study, Reuters reports.

The study, published in The New England Journal of Medicine, showed that giving HIV-positive newborns drug therapy as soon as possible cuts the death rate by 76 percent. When doctors withheld therapy until babies displayed symptoms of AIDS or until their CD4 count dropped to low levels, the death rate was 16 percent.

Avy Violari, MD, lead researcher of the study at the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, said the results have already prompted officials in the United States, Europe and the World Health Organization this year to recommend immediate treatment for babies born with HIV.
“This was the landmark trial,” Dr. Violari said. However, early testing for newborns is expensive, and identifying infected babies will be a real challenge for developing countries. “It’s going to take a few years until early infant diagnosis is established,” Violari said.