For nearly any disease, including HIV/Stage 3 (AIDS), early diagnosis and treatment improve your long-term health outcomes. But for HIV/Stage 3 (AIDS), early treatment may also be an effective way to prevent passing the infection to your partner.
About HPTN 052
HPTN 052 is a ten-year international study conducted to determine if/how antiretroviral treatment affected disease transmission. The study focuses on heterosexual couples who were initially split into two groups:
- Those who received immediate ARV therapy
- Those who received ARV therapy after a detectible viral load was present
Before the study was even concluded, ARV was shown to significantly prevent disease transmission, so in 2011, all participants were offered ARV therapy regardless of viral load/level of viral suppression.
Understanding the Study Results
By 2011, findings from HPTN 052 prompted a new approach to global HIV/Stage 3 (AIDS) prevention—antiretroviral treatment.
ARVs by themselves do not actually prevent the spread of HIV/Stage 3 (AIDS) infection. Rather, when ARVs are able to reduce the viral load to undetectable levels, that is when risk of spreading the infection nears 0!
So, in order to be effective as HIV/Stage 3 (AIDS) prevention, those with the virus must:
- Be on ARVs long enough to reduce their viral load (i.e. achieve full virus suppression)
- Adhere to an ARV regimen
The importance of taking ARVs as directed cannot be stressed enough. In the HPTN 052 study, 50% of cases of disease transmission occurred when the HIV positive partner failed to take medications as directed or had a drug-resistant strain of the virus.