- SEATTLE (Reuters Health)
- A large number of people who are HIV-infected don't get treatment until
the disease has already advanced, and heterosexuals, injection drug users
and blacks and Hispanics appear to get treatment later than others who
are infected with the virus that causes AIDS. The findings were reported
here Monday at the 9th annual Retroviral Conference.
- "We found that during the 5-year period (1996-2000),
33% patients began antiretroviral therapy (ART) early, 26% initiated ART
at the generally recommended period, and 40% began treatment late,"
Dr. A. D. McNaghten, of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
(CDC), told Reuters Health.
- Compared with whites, "Hispanics were 1.8 times
more likely to initiate ART late, and blacks were about 1.7 times more
likely to initiate ART late," she said.
- When categorized by HIV risk factors, injection drug
users and heterosexuals were more likely to delay the start of ART compared
with non-drug users and homosexual men. On the other hand, females and
individuals under the age of 25 years were less likely to get a late start
compared with males and those older than 25 years.
- McNaghten said it is not clear "if patients are
testing for HIV late, or accessing care late, or both."
- Also, "we don't know if patients are waiting to
start therapy. Providers as well may be waiting to start therapy for some
of the patients, since resistance is an issue," she continued.
patients and providers may be waiting until the CD4 level drops a little
bit so they can maximize the benefits of antiretroviral
- In the study, the researchers divided patients into three
groups based on levels of CD4, the immune system cell attacked by HIV.
Those who started treatment early had CD4 counts of 350 cells per
of blood or greater, those who started treatment at the generally
point had CD4 counts between 250 and 350 cells per microliter, and those
who began treatment late had less than 250 CD4 cells per microliter or
an AIDS-defining illness.
- The information was obtained from patient charts in 100
clinics in 10 US cities, primarily urban areas. All of the 4,379 study
participants were 13 years of age or older who were enrolled as patients
in these clinics.
- Commenting on the report, Dr. Harold Jaffe of the CDC
said, "Two out of every five Americans with HIV begin treatment later
than the point which is currently recommended in federal
- He added, "Late treatment is particularly a problem
for the non-white population, for injecting drug users and for people
- Jaffe stressed that "this may be the result of
diagnosis of their infection, delayed treatment, or both." Both
agree the next step will be to answer these questions.
- Copyright © 2002 Reuters Limited. All rights
Republication or redistribution of Reuters content is expressly prohibited
without the prior written consent of Reuters. Reuters shall not be liable
for any errors or delays in the content, or for any actions taken in