July 24, 2017

Cocktail of drugs could prevent 10,000 HIV deaths a year, claim scientists

Written by Rebecca Ratcliffe

This article originally appeared on The Guardian.

A package of low-cost drugs designed to prevent deadly infections among people who are starting HIV treatment late could save 10,000 lives a year across sub-Saharan Africa, scientists believe.

About one in five people who start HIV treatment in poorer countries are doing so later than advisable, which means they have a low number of CD4 cells, a key component of the immune system. This leaves them far more vulnerable to developing serious illnesses. Roughly one in 10 such people die within the first few weeks of treatment because their immune systems cannot recover fast enough.

HIV prevalence is particularly high in sub-Saharan Africa, with women and children especially vulnerable, but a study led by academics at University College London found that a preventative package of anti-infection drugs significantly reduces the number of deaths from HIV-related illnesses. The researchers estimate that if the drugs were given to every patient in sub-Saharan Africa starting anti-HIV treatment and suffering from a low CD4 count, the drugs could prevent roughly 10,000 deaths each year.

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