Provision of Drugs in Taiwan Leads to Reduction in Estimated HIV Incidence Rate, Study Says
Taiwan's universal provision of antiretroviral drugs may be associated with a more than 50% reduction in the country's estimated HIV incidence rate, according to a study published in the July 22 issue of the Journal of Infectious Diseases, BBC News reports (Black, BBC News, 8/5). Chi-Tang Fang of the department of internal medicine at the National Taiwan University Hospital and colleagues analyzed national HIV statistics. Taiwan in 1989 established a national HIV surveillance system and in April 1997 established a program to provide antiretroviral drugs to all citizens. The researchers found that the estimated HIV incidence rate decreased by 53% after the country established its treatment program. However, there was no statistically significant change in the incidence of syphilis in the general population or among HIV-positive people during the same time period, according to the study (Fang, Journal of Infectious Diseases, 7/22). The lack of a change in syphilis incidence and the decrease in HIV incidence give evidence that the provision of drugs -- rather than a change in behavior -- is responsible for the decrease in HIV incidence, the researchers say. "This study shows that in a country with a relatively small epidemic, introducing early treatment for all who need it could curb the spread of HIV," Keith Alcorn, senior editor of the HIV information service NAM, said, adding, "It remains to be seen if it will have the same effect in countries like South Africa, where one in five are infected and treatment will begin quite late in the course of the disease" (BBC News, 8/5).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.