For people with HIV, the earlier they start treatment, the better -- and better not just for them. A study has shown that early treatment greatly reduces the risk that the partner of an infected person will also get infected. HIV is the virus that causes AIDS.Dr. Anthony Fauci is with the United States National Institutes of Health which paid for the study. He says: "Many studies have been showing that the earlier you start, the better it is for the person who is infected." But this study shows that it also helps keep that person from transmitting the virus to a heterosexual partner. Most of the couples in the study were heterosexual, so researchers cannot say if the results would be the same in men who have sex with men. The study took place in Botswana, Brazil, India, Kenya, Malawi, South Africa, Thailand, the United States and Zimbabwe. It involved almost two thousand couples divided into two groups. In one group, the infected man or woman began to take a combination of three antiretroviral drugs immediately after being found to have HIV. In the other group, the infected partners began drug treatment only when they started to show signs of getting AIDS. The researchers say both groups received equal amounts of HIV-related care and counseling. That included information about safe sex practices, free condoms and regular HIV testing. The study began in two thousand five. It was supposed to last until twenty-fifteen. But researchers stopped it early because the results were so clear. Only one case of infection was reported in couples where the infected partner began immediate treatment. Dr. Fauci says earlier treatment led to a ninety-six percent reduction in the spread of HIV to uninfected partners. He says: "This is a powerful bit of evidence that will go into the thinking and formulation of guidelines ... by the international organizations that help to provide drugs in the developing world."The study shows the value in testing and treating HIV before a person even feels sick enough to see a doctor. But in many countries, public health budgets are already stretched thin. In sub-Saharan Africa, the area hardest hit by AIDS, for every person who gets treated, two others go untreated. Antiretroviral drugs suppress the virus. Once people start treatment, they have to continue it daily for the rest of their life.
For VOA Special English, I'm Carolyn Presutti. You can download MP3s of Special English programs and find English teaching activities at voaspecialenglish.com.