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Treat HIV-positive babies from the start

Babies born infected with HIV should be treated as soon as possible, a large trial shows

Babies infected with HIV from birth should be given powerful drugs to fight the virus as soon as possible, researchers in South Africa find. In a comparison of treatment strategies, the team reports that babies getting medication, even when they are just weeks old, showed dramatically better survival in subsequent months than those treated only after HIV-related symptoms appeared later. The study appears in the Nov. 20 New England Journal of Medicine.

“I think it’s a landmark trial,” says Edward Handelsman, a pediatrician at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases in Bethesda, Md. “It’s the first large, randomized clinical trial which absolutely, positively establishes this benefit to early treatment. And it provides a path — as far as I’m concerned a mandate — to start improving our methods of identifying [HIV-positive] infants early.” NIAID partly funded the study.

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