People who have experienced triple-class treatment failure from the three most common classes of HIV drugs can still benefit from treatment if the medications lower their viral load even somewhat.

European researchers analyzed records from nearly 2,500 HIV-positive people with triple-class treatment failure and estimated changes in CD4 counts assuming a baseline of 300 cells after treatment failure. They found that those with a viral load of 100 would have a CD4 count of 386 on average after two years. For each 10-fold higher viral load, the CD4 count would be progressively lower so that those with a viral load of a million would have a CD4 count of 213, on average.

“Even though we’ve come to expect that you should be able to completely suppress viral replication, we shouldn’t be too negative about regimens if someone’s not able to,” says the study’s lead author Andrew Phillips, PhD, a professor at the University College London.