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Swiss researchers uncover clues to HIV treatment

HIV drugs Keystone

A Basel University study has shown that various combinations of drugs used to treat HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) are equally effective. In 90 per cent of newly infected patients, the virus was almost completely suppressed.

The study, published on Tuesday in the Archives of Internal Medicine, included 1,957 patients who began combination antiretroviral therapy between 2005 and 2009 at one of seven Swiss university hospitals: Basel, Bern, Geneva, Lausanne, Lugano, St Gallen and Zurich.

The study was unique in that patients with conditions like drug addiction, alcohol-related illnesses, hepatitis or circulatory diseases were not excluded. The patients were a subset of 16,000 HIV-positive participants in a larger Swiss study.

The findings confirm results of earlier studies showing the high efficacy of current antiviral therapies, study leader Manuel Battegay, leader of infectiology and hospital hygiene at Basel University, told the Swiss News Agency.

Battegay called the results particularly important for patients in poorer countries, because combinations of inexpensive drugs were as effective as combinations of newer, more expensive drugs.

Choice of drugs

Today roughly 25 different antiviral drugs and combinations of active substances are available for treating HIV.

The study found large differences in the individual drugs and combinations which the hospitals chose to prescribe, but no differences in patient outcome from site to site.

The study also noted a trend towards selection of drugs based on the individual patient’s needs and history, rather than based on standardised care.

Today’s HIV patients have the same life expectancy as non-infected patients if both have a good quality of life, Battegay said.

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