It’s good for your health!

We now know that there are huge benefits to starting HIV treatment early, before the virus has had a chance to do much damage to your immune system. The earlier you are diagnosed with HIV after infection and the earlier you start treatment, the better. This is true whether your CD4 count is high or low.

A large study, called the START trial, confirmed this. Researchers enrolled 4,685 participants from 35 countries. The study participants were randomly assigned to two groups: The first group started treatment immediately while the second group waited until their CD4 counts dropped to below 350 or until a serious illness developed. (A CD4 count is one measure of how strong a person’s immune system is. A blood test is used to measure how many CD4 cells a person has in their blood.) The participants who started treatment immediately significantly cut their risk of developing serious illnesses, such as cancer and life-threatening infections. This was true regardless of the sex, age, race and ethnicity of participants.

These findings confirm that the benefits of starting treatment early clearly outweigh the possible risks.

As a result of this groundbreaking research, Canadian treatment guidelines now recommend that HIV treatment be offered immediately to all people diagnosed with HIV.