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PrEP and Additional Benefits of HIV Treatment Among Science Highlights from IAS 2015

More HIV research findings were shared yesterday as the 8th International AIDS Society Conference on HIV Pathogenesis, Treatment and Prevention (IAS 2015) continued in Vancouver, Canada. We spoke by Skype with Dr. Carl Dieffenbach, Director of the Division of AIDS at NIH’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), to learn about some of the highlights.

PrEP Feasible for Individuals at High Risk of HIV Infection in U.S.

Several studies examining use of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) were featured at the conference. One of the tools in the HIV prevention toolkit, PrEP is a way for people who don’t have HIV to prevent HIV infection by taking a pill, called Truvada, every day.

Dr. Dieffenbach reports that findings were shared at the conference from an NIH-supported study, the PrEP Demo Project, which examined use of this HIV prevention strategy in real-world settings. The study was conducted in San Francisco; Miami; and Washington, DC. Its findings indicate that a majority of the study participants – men who have sex with men (MSM) and transgender women (TGW) at high risk for HIV infection – took the PrEP medication most of the time. Dr. Dieffenbach observes that this is a very important step forward since it demonstrates that those at highest risk of HIV infection in the U.S. can access and utilize this prevention tool to protect them from HIV infection. For more information, read the NIH release about the study and review this and related abstracts on the conference website Exit Disclaimer (Search for session TUAC0202).

Early HIV Treatment Also Prevents Non-AIDS Outcomes

Dr. Dieffenbach’s second conference highlight was one he characterized as both surprising and welcome: evidence that starting HIV therapy early not only protects an individual against opportunistic infections associated with AIDS, but also from AIDS-related cancers and other cancers that have never been associated with HIV or AIDS, such as colorectal cancer or lung cancer. These new findings, reported at IAS 2015, are the result of new analysis of data from the Strategic Timing of AntiRetroviral Treatment (START) study, the first large-scale randomized clinical trial to establish that earlier antiretroviral treatment benefits all individuals with HIV (See related video).

The global study was conducted in 215 sites across 35 countries, representing a diverse population of HIV-positive individuals. The findings show that starting HIV treatment early significantly reduces the risk of both serious AIDS events and serious non-AIDS events such as cardiovascular disease, end-stage renal disease, liver disease, non-AIDS defining cancer or causes of death not attributable to AIDS.

“This study conclusively shows that the benefits of early therapy far outweigh any adverse outcomes, and reinforces recommendations to offer immediate antiretroviral therapy to all patients,” said NIAID Director Anthony S. Fauci, M.D., in an NIH news release. “[These] findings show that early antiretroviral treatment presents no additional risk of serious, non-AIDS-related disease to people taking treatment, but actually confers valuable protection against these illnesses, helping keep HIV-infected people healthier longer.”

Tomorrow, Dr. Dieffenbach will return to share final highlights of the science presented at IAS 2015.