Presence of Steady Partner May Slow HIV Progression, Delay Death, Study Says
HIV-positive people who have a steady partner may experience slower progression from HIV to AIDS and may postpone death, compared with HIV-positive people without a steady partner, according to a study published in the Jan. 3 issue of BMJ, Reuters Health reports. Dr. Heiner Bucher of the University Hospital of Basel in Switzerland and colleagues beginning in 1993 enrolled in the study 3,736 HIV-positive people who were on an antiretroviral drug regimen (McCook, Reuters Health, 1/5). Every six months, the researchers asked the participants whether they had had sex with a stable partner over the six-month period. Beginning in April 2000, the researchers asked the participants two separate questions: whether they had a stable partner and whether they had sex with a stable partner (Young et al., BMJ, 1/3). About 80% of study participants reported being in a stable relationship at least once during the study. Approximately half of study participants were followed for more than 3.5 years. The researchers found that participants with stable partners were less likely to receive an AIDS diagnosis or die over the study period and were more likely to experience an increase in CD4+ T cells (Reuters Health, 1/5). The researchers said that they "can only speculate" about why a stable relationship is associated with a slower rate of disease progression, adding that HIV-positive people may get help with drug adherence from stable partners or may be less likely to experience depression, a risk factor in many other chronic diseases (BMJ, 1/3). Based on the findings, Bucher recommends that doctors ask their HIV-positive patients whether they are in a stable relationship and ask the patients who are not in a relationship whether they need help with their treatment regimen or are experiencing depression (Reuters Health, 1/5).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.