Panel Releases New Treatment Guidelines Delaying Initiation of Therapy
New treatment guidelines released by an International AIDS Society-USA panel suggest that people with HIV who are symptom-free can now wait longer to begin taking AIDS treatments, the Associated Press reports. The new guidelines will be published in the July 10 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association but were released early to coincide with the beginning of the XIV International AIDS Conference in Barcelona, Spain. With the advent of protease inhibitors in the mid-1990s, doctors often recommended that people who had recently contracted HIV begin taking AIDS drugs immediately. However, the panel said that the "threshold for initiation of therapy has shifted to a later time in the course of HIV" because of "increased awareness" of the drugs' effectiveness and potential side effects. According to the new guidelines, treatment should be initiated when the CD4 white blood cell count falls to between 200 and 350 per cubic millimeter. The guidelines say that although the drugs may be beneficial for people with higher white blood cell counts, the risks -- including increased cholesterol counts and "disfiguring" body-fat changes -- outweigh the benefits. The panel did not recommend which drugs should be used (Tanner, Associated Press, 7/7).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.