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J Infect Dis. 2006 Sep 15;194(6):725-33. Epub 2006 Aug 15.

A multicenter observational study of the potential benefits of initiating combination antiretroviral therapy during acute HIV infection.

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University of California San Francisco, San Francisco, CA 94110, USA.



Uncontrolled studies have suggested a benefit, after treatment discontinuation, of initiating highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) during primary human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection. We assessed whether initiation of HAART within 2 weeks of (acute treatment) or between 2 weeks and 6 months after (early treatment) HIV seroconversion was associated with improvements in the viral load and the CD4+ T cell count after discontinuation of treatment in an observational cohort.


Subjects from the multicenter Acute Infection and Early Disease Research Program cohort were enrolled in the present study within 6 months of HIV seroconversion and self-selected whether to initiate HAART. Subjects who received acute (n=13) or early (n=45) treatment received HAART for at least 12 weeks and then subsequently stopped treatment, whereas untreated subjects (n=337) declined treatment. HIV RNA levels and CD4+ T cell counts at 24, 48, and 72 weeks after treatment cessation in the 2 treatment groups were compared with those noted in the untreated group during the same periods of observation after enrollment.


The acute treatment group had lower mean HIV RNA levels at 24 weeks without therapy (-0.48 log(10) copies/mL [95% confidence interval {CI}, -0.82 to -0.13 log(10) copies/mL]) and higher mean CD4+ T cell counts (112 cells/ mu L [95% CI, 20-205 cells/ microL]), compared with the untreated group at 24 weeks. The differences in the laboratory values for the acute treatment group versus the untreated group at 72 weeks without therapy were as follows: for the HIV RNA level, -0.35 log(10) copies/mL (95% CI, -0.91 to 0.21 log(10) copies/mL) and, for the CD4 T+ cell count, 112 cells/ microL (95% CI, -15 to 213 cells/ microL). The early treatment group had lower HIV RNA levels at 24 weeks than did the untreated group, but differences were no longer apparent by week 48; CD4+ T cell counts were higher in the early treatment group at week 24 (116 cells/ microL [95% CI, 75-157 cells/ microL]) and week 72 (70 cells/ microL [95% CI, 2-138 cells/ microL]).


Initiation of HAART within 2 weeks of antibody seroconversion was associated with viral load and CD4+ T cell count benefits for 24 weeks after termination of HAART, with there being trends toward a longer-term benefit. Later initiation of HAART was associated with a persistent but decreasing CD4+ T cell count benefit and a loss of the viral load benefit by week 72 after discontinuation of treatment.

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